Ruling on impeachment may come next month

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Ruling on impeachment may come next month

A lawmaker in charge of the National Assembly’s impeachment against President Park Geun-hye said Thursday that the Constitutional Court’s ruling will likely come as early as next month.

Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the Bareun Party said the impeachment trial against Park is proceeding faster than expected. Kweon is the head of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee and the impeachment committee, which acts as the prosecution in Park’s impeachment trial at the Constitutional Court.

“Initially, the National Assembly wanted to have 22 witnesses,” he said during a party meeting. “But many of them were questioned by the prosecution already, so we will withdraw our requests to summon them as witnesses.”

He added that their testimonies at the prosecution were already selected as evidence by the court, indicating that there would be no need to summon them for hearings.

Kweon said the National Assembly now wants only five witnesses, and so the court will be able to make a ruling faster.

In a radio interview last week, Kweon said the court is expected to make a decision as late as early March. Factoring in the latest change in the number of witnesses, however, the court is expected to make a ruling as early as February.

The National Assembly impeached President Park in December for having allowed her secret inner circle including Choi Soon-sil to interfere in state affairs. It also accused her of failing to protect the citizens’ lives during the Sewol ferry’s sinking in 2014.

The Constitutional Court must decide whether to remove Park from office by June 6, 2017. Speculations were high that it may need to use the full 180 days granted to review the case, but judges have promised a speedy trial.

The court held its seventh hearing on Thursday. In the morning, it sided with the National Assembly by rejecting Park’s lawyers’ objection to selecting contents of memos created by An Chong-bum, former senior presidential secretary of policy coordination, as evidence. An kept meticulous records of Park’s orders and many of the memos were linked to the National Assembly’s grounds for Park’s impeachment.

During the fifth hearing on Monday, An also testified that Park had notified him of the specific amounts of donations to be collected from each conglomerate for nonprofit foundations allegedly controlled by her friend, Choi.

Although Park’s lawyers said An’s memos were confiscated by the prosecution through illegal means, therefore have no evidentiary power, Constitutional Justice Kang Il-won rejected the objection on Thursday. “What we selected as evidence are An’s testimonies [that confirmed the contents of the memos],” Kang said.

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

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