Tell it to the judges

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Tell it to the judges

The Constitutional Court has kicked off a historic trial to determine the political future of President Park Geun-hye, her place in modern Korean history and the future direction of the country. The highest court will be geared to fully deliberate on whether she committed crimes grave enough to justify her impeachment by the National Assembly. The court will also affirm the absolute truth that no one is above the law.

Chief Justice Park Han-chul appropriately commented that we face a crisis that may cause a significant change in the structure of our government. The court’s commitment to a speedy trial reflects the people’s increasing calls to end the confusion and uncertainty brought on by the impeachment as soon as possible.

But President Park’s stubborn reactions raise serious concerns. Despite the fact that she was a major contributor to the unprecedented abuse of power and influence-peddling scandal involving her close friend Choi Soon-sil, yesterday’s first hearing ended after nine minutes because Park didn’t show up. Given her determination not to appear later on as well, the historic trial will most likely proceed without the main protagonist in this shocking drama.

More worrisome is Park’s resort to the court of public opinion, as clearly seen in remarks she made during a meeting with the press on New Year’s Day. At her residence in the Blue House, she steadfastly denied all charges against her. She even claimed to believe that she was set up by the prosecution. The president insisted she was not behind Choi’s influence-peddling for conglomerates’ donations and that she did her best as commander in chief to rescue survivors of the Sewol ferry disaster during the first critical seven hours of its sinking. She also stated that she did not take any bribe from business tycoons in return for favors.

Everyone has a right to defend themselves. But it goes against scruples for a suspended president to invite reporters to tell her story — while refusing to testify to prosecutors or in her own trial. That only invites suspicion that she is bent on extending her presidency by indirectly sending advice to other witnesses at the trial.

Even with Park’s absence, the court is not likely to confront a huge hurdle as her personal aides and Choi are scheduled to appear. A special counsel’s probe into the case will help uncover the truth.

But, Park must appear if she really wants to regain her pride and dignity. If she is innocent, she must tell the truth in court.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 4, Page 30
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