Summon the president

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Summon the president

President Park Geun-hye’s virtual rejection of the prosecution’s demand for face-to-face questioning over the unprecedented influence-peddling and abuse-of-power scandal involving the president and her friend Choi Soon-sil bodes ill for the future of the investigation.

Prosecutors were supposed to call in the president to probe her potential complicity with Choi, her former presidential secretary An Chong-bum and personal secretary Jeong Ho-seong. Indictments are expected soon.

But the president’s lawyer said he wasn’t prepared, so neither was the president. Prosecutors face a dilemma: they may have to prosecute Choi and the others with insufficient evidence of their heinous crimes. The prosecution has requested the president comply with its investigations by Friday at the latest, but it’s unclear if that will happen.

The prosecution was perplexed to see the president flip-flop on her promise to go along with the investigation by prosecutors as well as by an independent counsel. Critics underscore the need to make public the results of the prosecution’s probe so far, especially if the president continues to dismiss its summons.

The prosecution is partly accountable for the problem. Despite an avalanche of breaking news about the scandal, the prosecution dragged its feet — even after a special investigation unit was launched. Then, after last weekend’s massive candlelight vigil in Gwanghwamun Square, the prosecution abruptly changed its mind and naïvely gave the president an ultimatum to comply with questioning on Tuesday or Wednesday.

But Park bears greater responsibility. Reversing an earlier vow to follow the legal procedure cannot be squared with her position as head of state — even when evidence of Park coercing her aides to force donations from conglomerates to set up the controversial Mi-R and K-Sports foundations emerge. Ordinary citizens are embarrassed to know that the 3.5 billion won ($2.99 million) Choi received for the sake of supporting the Korean equestrian team going to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was used to buy her a hotel and house in Germany.

Park has ordered her justice minister to get to the bottom of a corruption case involving high-level government officials and a property developer in Busan. This is a joke. If Park wants to escape from her political crisis by taking advantage of that corruption case, that’s a big mistake. It won’t work.

The prosecution must notify the president of a plan to summon her. Prosecutors must recover the public trust they lost long ago.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 17, Page 34

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