Prosecutors get ready to interrogate the presidentPresident Park Geun-hye will likely be questioned on Tuesday or Wednesday as part of a criminal investigation into allegations that she allowed her friend, Choi Soon-sil, to influence state affairs, prosecutors said Sunday.
Prosecutors also plan to ask her whether she pressured conglomerates to donate to two foundations where Choi was the de facto head.
Authorities said they have already told the Blue House that President Park needs to be questioned face-to-face and are waiting for a response. Prosecutors said they have not decided yet where the questioning will be held and by whom, but are now working on the details.
In her second televised press conference about the allegations, which took place on Nov. 4, Park said that, if necessary, she would “faithfully submit” to the prosecution’s investigation and offer her “best cooperation” to reveal the truth. If she does appear before prosecutors, she will be the first president in Korean history to be investigated while in office.
According to Article 84 of the Constitution, the president is exempt from being charged with a criminal offense during his or her term except in the cases of insurrection or treason, but can be questioned as a witness or suspect.
Park will be summoned as a witness.
Prosecutors said they will ask the president about her role in the Choi-gate scandal, specifically whether she gave any orders to aides and how she was informed about the illegal acts.
In her first press conference about the case, on Oct. 25, Park admitted she sought help from Choi for her speeches during her presidential campaign in 2012 and continued to do so after she took the office, but did not mention Choi’s role in any other capacities.
An Chong-bum, former presidential senior secretary for policy coordination, reportedly told prosecutors that the controversial Mi-R and K-Sports foundations were created on the “direct orders” of Park and that he had reported to her about their management and the collection of donations for them.
The foundations, which are controlled by Choi, amassed a staggering 77.4 billion won ($67.75 million) from 53 conglomerates just days after they were launched and are suspected of being slush funds for the president to use after she leaves office in February 2018.
An is currently detained.
On another front, 80 lawmakers and senior members of the ruling Saenuri Party, to which President Park belongs, issued a joint statement Sunday and vowed to disband the party in an apologetic move to the general public, adding they will establish a so-called emergency situation committee to push the move forward.
Lee Jae-myung, the mayor of Seongnam, Gyeonggi, who recently said the time has come to use impeachment to get Park to step down, wrote on his Facebook account Sunday that he would consider officially requesting the prosecution to dig in on Park’s whereabouts on the day of the Sewol ferry tragedy on April 16, 2014.
The mystery surrounding the seven hours when Park’s whereabouts were unknown that day has recently resurfaced as media reports suggested she failed to properly respond to the accident, which led to the deaths of 304 people, because she was undergoing cosmetic surgery. The Blue House has denied this.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]