Park sticks with lawyer who failed to defend her

Former President Park Geun-hye’s lawyer Yoo Young-ha arrives at her house in southern Seoul by car, March 20, the eve of the prosecution’s questioning of the ousted president. Yoo has virtually failed to defend Park as she was arrested after the questioning, but Park sticks with him and fired other lawyers. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

By Kim Rahn

Former President Park Geun-hye has fired seven out of her nine lawyers as she is preparing for a legal battle over the massive corruption scandal which led to her ouster and arrest.

The lawyers reportedly had internal disputes because she only allowed Yoo Young-ha, who has virtually led the defense team, to contact her. Yoo reportedly failed to consult with the other lawyers in preparing for the trial.

The prosecution investigating the corruption allegations said Sunday that it received notice from Park’s side that seven of the nine members on her defense team have been fired. Most of them have defended the former president since she was undergoing the Constitutional Court’s impeachment hearings.

The remaining two are Yoo, 55, and Chae Myung-sung, 39. Yoo has defended Park since she faced the prosecution’s investigation when the scandal was snowballing in November, and Chae joined the defense team in December ahead of the impeachment hearings.

Most of the lawyers were reportedly dissatisfied with Yoo, the only one who meets their client, saying he did not share information and Park’s thoughts with them and ignored their opinions.

Sources in legal circles say Yoo insisted on his opinion throughout the scandal, from the investigation by the prosecution and the independent counsel to the impeachment hearings. “Most of the other lawyers agreed it was better for Park to undergo the independent counsel’s questioning and to attend the Constitutional Court’s last hearing. But Yoo opposed this, and Park followed his opinion,” a source said.

Despite the criticism that Yoo’s inept strategy has led to Park’s failure, it seems Park keeps trusting him _ only him.

This is reminiscent of Park’s personnel management style during her term: she preferred loyalty to other characteristics and abilities, so she appointed a small number of loyal aides to this position and then that position.

It was rumored earlier that due to the discord with Yoo, some of the lawyers were considering voluntarily resigning. But Park dismissed them suddenly and it seems she did not talk about the dismissal with them in advance.

“I learned of my dismissal through media reports,” one of the lawyers told a local daily. “If she was to fire us so easily, I don’t understand why she hired us in the first place.”

This is also in line with how she managed state affairs: she did not communicate with aides, and often decided important affairs on her own, such as disbanding the Korea Coast Guard following the Sewol ferry sinking without prior notice to the coast guard’s leaders.

As Park sticks with Yoo, she is likely to maintain the “I don’t know anything” stance during future trials. Yoo may try to form a new team with new members, but it is unknown whether experienced, skillful lawyers will join.

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