Pleading victimhoodFormer president Park Geun-hye on Monday appeared in the Seoul Central District Court and made bombshell remarks. “I should be the last victim of political retaliation in the name of the rule of law,” she said. Her statement succinctly shows a victim mentality despite all the chaos she caused in an unprecedented abuse of power scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil, which led to her impeachment and ouster from power in March. The former president’s remarks translate into a deep distrust of her own criminal trial.
Park kept on insisting that she had never received requests for favors from anybody or abused her power as head of state. We never expected her to insist so strongly on her innocence and express such resentment about her impeachment. Her statement clearly shows that her initial response to the scandal, in which she attributed her ouster to “a mountain of lies and fabrication,” has not changed at all.
The court’s decision to extend Park’s detention for another six months could have played a part in the former president’s reaction. She said she had trouble accepting the court’s decision. Her defense lawyers also decided to quit en masse after criticizing the bench for “dismissing the two crucial principles of the criminal law — the presumption of innocence and a trial without detention.” In fact, there is some controversy over the court’s extension of Park’s detention on the grounds of her potential for obstruction of evidence. President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok even made public a document suggesting a fabrication of the timing of the first presidential report on the tragic Sewol ferry sinking to help the bench extend her detention in advance.
No one can find fault with a defendant pleading his or her innocence or expressing complaints about court proceedings. But it should be done within the frame of the rule of law. A president, in particular, must not cross that red line. Park’s arguments are nothing but an obstruction of justice. We are concerned about the possibility that she is attempting to rally her supporters to put political pressure on the bench.
At the so-called trial of the century, the bench must find the truth behind the abuse of power and corruption. The public wants to see the former president prove her innocence or face the proper punishment. Park must act as a responsible politician. Whether guilty or not, she must sincerely follow the legal proceedings. All else will be judged in the great court of history.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 17, Page 34