Question the president thoroughlyProsecutors notified the Blue House that they would question President Park Geun-hye Tuesday or Wednesday as part of their investigation on the unprecedented influence-peddling by her friend, Choi Soon-sil. They made it clear that the questioning must be face-to-face, but that they would allow the president to choose the place. The Blue House said it would be able to respond by Tuesday. An incumbent president therefore now faces a criminal investigation for the first time in the history of Korean democracy.
President Park is at the heart of the scandal involving her confidante, Choi. She is suspected to have commanded or directly been involved in the creation of the controversial Mi-R and K-Sports foundations that collected as much as 77.4 billion won ($67.75 million) from conglomerates. The president is suspected to have demanded that they donate while meeting the conglomerate heads. If proven, Park would be charged of abuse of power for using her title to squeeze out money from businesses.
President Park already faces the allegation of leaking classified government documents to non-eligible parties after admitting that she had sought Choi’s advice in some areas while in office. Prosecutors also would have to find out how much the president knew about the influence peddling by Choi and her family members as well as her close confidant, Cha Eun-taek, and their involvement in public office appointments.
How eager the prosecution is about finding the truth, however, remains questionable. The prosecution has dragged its feet on the investigation and merely chased media reports. Because it wasted time, it lost the opportunity to dig out strong evidence from the mobile phone of Woo Byung-woo, former senior presidential secretary on civil affairs. The prosecution could face the similar charge of damaging governance.
There should not be any limit in the probe just because the president is protected by Article 84 of the Constitution, which exempts the president of a criminal offense during his or her term, except in the cases of insurrection or treason against the state. The prosecution must thoroughly question the president on all allegations. The prosecution no longer has the confidence of the public. It could face a strong backlash from an angry public if it attempts to cover up the president’s offences.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 14, Page 30