Park to be questioned for first time since being arrested

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Park to be questioned for first time since being arrested

Former President Park Geun-hye is scheduled to be questioned by the prosecution at the Seoul Detention Center today, the first questioning since she was locked up at the facility early Friday for crimes she allegedly committed during her failed presidency.

According to the prosecution, Han Woong-jae, a senior prosecutor who mostly questioned Park during the initial 21-hour session on March 21, will be sent to the detention center. The questioning will begin at 10 a.m. No end time has been set. Han will be accompanied by a prosecutor and an investigator during the questioning.

“We asked Park to come to the prosecution to face questioning but Park’s lawyers requested a visit to the detention center, citing her psychological condition and security issues,” a source from the prosecution’s special investigation team said Sunday. “We accepted the request and will make a visit.”

After the longest arrest warrant hearing on record, the Seoul Central District Court issued the prosecution a warrant to take Park into custody. Park was immediately put behind bars on Friday, but prosecutors have not conducted any questioning since.

The prosecution has until April 19 to hold Park in custody, and must prosecute her before the warrant expires, which may be before the official campaign for the May 9 presidential election begins on April 17.

It will not be the first questioning of a former president at a detention center. In 1995, prosecutors visited Anyang Prison to question former President Chun Doo-hwan and Seoul Detention Center to probe his successor, Roh Tae-woo.

“We scheduled questioning for Monday, but Park’s lawyers asked for a delay to prepare,” the source said. “So, the schedule was delayed to Tuesday.”

The prosecution is expected to make multiple visits to question Park, as she is facing at least 13 charges, ranging from bribery, abuse of power, coercion and leaking confidential government secrets. Park has denied all charges. Among the charges, the prosecution will likely make bribery the priority of the questioning. Independent counsel Park Young-soo concluded in February that Park received bribes from Samsung Group through her friend, Choi Soon-sil, and the prosecution listed bribery charges when it sought the detention warrant.

According to the prosecution, a plan to relocate Choi to the Seoul Nambu Detention Center to separate her from Park is also being considered. “The authorities at the detention center are paying special attention to separating them,” the source said. “But the center is not spacious and workers are having a difficult time doing so, so we are considering moving Choi to the Nambu center.”

Because Park and Choi are identified as co-conspirators in all crimes by the prosecution and the independent counsel, their contact inside the detention center is strictly prohibited. For the past four months, Choi was barred from meeting anyone other than her lawyer due to concern that she may try to manipulate evidence and coordinate testimonies, but the ban was lifted on Saturday.

The prosecution said Monday there is no plan to have Park confront Choi during her questioning.

It remains to be seen if Park will confront former aides at the questioning. An Chong-bum, former senior policy coordination secretary of the Blue House, and Jeong Ho-seong, Park’s longtime ally who worked as the personal secretary to the president, admitted during the probes and trials they had acted at Park’s behest. Park was visited by her lawyer, Yoo Yeong-ha, on Monday. Her sister-in-law, Seo Hyang-hee, also visited Park on Monday. Seo is also a lawyer, but is not formally representing Park.

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