|Photojournalists mark a spot for taking photos in front of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in southern Seoul, Wednesday, after the prosecution notified former President Park Geun-hye to attend questioning there March 21. / Korea Times photo by Hong In-kee|
By Kim Bo-eun
The prosecution said Wednesday it would question former President Park Geun-hye, March 21, on the influence-peddling scandal which led to her impeachment.
Park is suspected of having pressured Samsung Group to provide 43 billion won ($37.6 million) to her confidant Choi Soon-sil in return for Cheong Wa Dae granting the company business favors. She faces numerous charges including bribery and abuse of power.
Park’s lawyers said she will cooperate with the prosecution’s investigation.
“We will cooperate with prosecutors, and attend questioning as summoned,” Son Bum-kyu said the same day.
Park will be the fourth state leader to be questioned by the prosecution as a suspect, following former presidents Roh Tae-woo, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Moo-hyun.
A special team at the prosecution initially investigated the scandal before an independent counsel team took over. But the latter failed to question Park before the expiration of its mandate in February.
As Park was still in office, despite being suspended from duty, she had immunity from criminal prosecution. Also there was a controversy over whether the counsel team could question her. The team had sought to question Park near Cheong Wa Dae for security reasons and to respect her dignity.
Having been removed from power, she has now lost her immunity and will have to appear at the prosecutors’ office.
She will likely be questioned in the same room as her confidant Choi.
Park has denied all the charges, claiming she did “not abuse or exercise authority as president for personal gain or to help a certain individual’s interest.”
On Sunday, when leaving Cheong Wa Dae and moving into her private residence in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, she delivered her stance through her acting spokesman Min Kyung-wook. He said Park believes “the truth will reveal itself,” implying she would not accept the Constitutional Court ruling and instead engage in a protracted legal battle.
Following the prosecution’s notification, another of her lawyers, Yoo Young-ha, visited Park’s home in an apparent move to prepare for her questioning next week.
Forecasts are that she will continue to deny the charges.
The prosecution faces the decision of whether to arrest Park. Considering the weight of the charges against her, and the current detention of Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong — another key suspect in the scandal — it may decide to apply for a warrant.
However, it may delay arresting and indicting Park until after the presidential election which takes place May 9.