+ A

Prosecutors will visit Park in jail to grill her

Dec 26,2017
The government will send investigators to the Seoul Detention Center today to question former President Park Geun-hye about her suspected misappropriation of large sums of money from the country’s main intelligence agency.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office said Monday two prosecutors and two investigators will be sent to the detention center. Park was initially summoned for questioning on Friday about the suspicion that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) diverted 4 billion won ($3.7 million) to the Blue House on her order, but she refused to attend the session, citing poor health. The prosecutors decided to pay a visit to the detention center, where Park has been jailed since March 31, because they see little prospect of her cooperation. A temporary interrogation room was prepared at the Seoul Detention Center to question her.

The prosecution already made five visits to the detention center shortly after Park was taken into custody. At the time, she was investigated about her alleged abuse of power and receipt of bribes while in office. The prosecution said it will ask Park why she ordered the NIS to send some of its special operations funds to the Blue House and how she used the money. According to the prosecution, today’s questioning will be the first of many sessions to come. Park may still resist meeting her interrogators. She is currently boycotting her bribery trial, and the Seoul Central District Court is proceeding with the case in her absence.

During the five earlier interrogations at the detention center, Park was accompanied by a lawyer. All of her lawyers resigned since then, and she is currently represented by five court-appointed public defenders. Park has refused to meet with them.

The questioning is planned after the prosecution investigated the former heads of the NIS and a former presidential chief of staff about the allegation. Prosecutors questioned former Presidential Chief of Staff Lee Won-jong on Friday.

According to an SBS exclusive report, the prosecution obtained a written confession from Lee that he received 150 million won from the NIS. Lee served as presidential chief of staff from May to October 2016, and he confessed that the intelligence agency sent 50 million won per month in May, June and July. His statement also included specifics of the spending, according to SBS and the prosecution is verifying the details.

The prosecution also obtained testimony from former NIS director Lee Byung-ho that Park ordered him to pay Lee Won-jong the monthly amounts. Other former NIS directors, Nam Jae-joon and Lee Byung-kee, have already been indicted on charges of diverting the off-the-book funds to the Blue House.

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