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Park to be summoned for questioning this Tuesday

Her lawyer said she’ll attend, if there is no ‘special circumstance’
Mar 16,2017
Prosecutors said Wednesday they have summoned former President Park Geun-hye to attend a questioning on March 21 to be grilled as a suspect in an abuse of power and corruption scandal.

According to the prosecution, Park was asked to show up for questioning at 9:30 a.m. at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul.

“Park will attend the questioning and cooperate with the investigation,” said Sohn Beom-kyu, Park’s lawyer, “unless there is a special circumstance.”

The Constitutional Court permanently removed Park from office on Friday, lifting the presidential immunity that has shielded her from criminal prosecution. A special investigation team headed by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office chief Lee Young-ryeol is currently investigating a series of allegations involving Park, her inner circle and large business groups.

The prosecution team started the initial probe at the end of last year and identified Park as a co-conspirator in eight charges, including abuse of power, coercion and leaks of national secrets. Independent counsel Park Young-soo continued the probe and handed over unfinished cases to the prosecution earlier this month.

The independent counsel investigation confirmed the charges and added new allegations of bribery. Park, as of now, is facing 13 charges. Park has denied them all. Exiting the Blue House on Sunday, Park said, “Though it may take time, I believe the truth will eventually prevail.”

In the past months, Park also displayed her mistrust of the prosecution and independent counsel. She said the investigations were politically biased and suspicions against her are a “meticulous conspiracy.”

A prosecution source told the JoongAng Ilbo that the specific course of action to take in going after Park will be decided immediately after the questioning, including a plan to seek a detention warrant against her.

Park is expected to face journalists at the photo line when she arrives at the prosecution.

“We will check on the precedent and use it as a reference,” said Roh Seung-kwon, deputy head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and deputy head of the special investigation team.

Park will become the fourth former president of Korea to face prosecutions. Roh Tae-woo was grilled on charges of creating massive slush funds during his term in November 1995. He was questioned for a total of 27 hours in two sessions.

Former President Chun Doo Hwan was questioned for mutiny and treason and was first detained and then questioned in December 1995. Prosecutors visited him multiple times at the Anyang Detention Center.

Former President Roh Moo-hyun was questioned in April 2009 over a bribery allegation. Roh committed suicide shortly after the questioning, headed by senior prosecutor Woo Byung-woo, who later worked as Park’s secretary and senior secretary for civil affairs.

Roh Tae-woo and Roh Moo-hyun both faced reporters upon their arrivals at the prosecution.

The special investigation team will likely question Park in the video recoding room located on the 7th floor. Choi Soon-sil, Park’s longtime friend, prosecuted for extorting money from conglomerates, was questioned in the same room in October last year.

The questioning is expected to run for hours as she is facing 13 charges, far more than her predecessors. She will be accompanied by her lawyers.

Park has named six lawyers as of Wednesday to represent her. All were her lawyers during the impeachment trial. Two senior lawyers, who created controversy during the impeachment trial for their provocative remarks and behaviors, Kim Pyung-woo and Seo Seog-gu, were not hired yet.

Lawyer Sohn is acting as Park’s spokesman, as she no longer has a public affairs aide.

It remains to be seen if the prosecution will seek to detain Park after questioning, and Rep. Kim Kyung-jin of the People’s Party, former prosecutor, said Wednesday that the probability is high.

“All her key conspirators are detained,” he said. “The Constitutional Court removed her for destroying the constitutional order. The prosecution won’t be able to ignore this.”

Kim also said Park has lied all along about the scandal, and her conspirator Choi has attempted to destroy evidence. “There is a 99 percent chance that the prosecution will detain her,” Kim said.

By SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]