Yoon buries hatchet with president he helped oust
Yoon, who as a prosecutor spearheaded the probe that led to the former president's impeachment and removal from office, visited Park at her residence in Daegu's Dalseong County at 2 p.m. Tuesday and held a 50-minute meeting in an "amicable atmosphere," according to their aides.
Their first meeting was an opportunity for Yoon to make amends with Park, invite her to his inauguration next month and curry favor with her many conservative supporters.
"We talked about [former President Park's] health," Yoon told reporters in Daegu after the meeting. "We do have a history. I told her about the human regret I have in my heart and how I felt sorry. And we talked about whether there are any inconveniences in her current life."
Yoon spearheaded the probe into a corruption scandal in 2016 that directly led to Park's ouster and time in jail.
Park was impeached in December 2016 and removed from office in March 2017 over an influence-peddling scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil. She was convicted of corruption and abuse of power and sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison.
Park received a special pardon from President Moon Jae-in last December due to deteriorating health and was formally released on New Year's Eve, though she remained hospitalized in Seoul. She was released from the hospital late last month.
Park spent four years and nine months in incarceration, the longest imprisonment of any former Korean head of state to date.
A crowd of around 300 supporters of Park gathered in front of her residence, lining the streets with banners and flower arrangements to welcome Yoon.
Kwon Young-se, vice chairman of Yoon's transition team, and Yoo Yeong-ha, Park's lawyer and close aide, took part in the meeting and gave a joint briefing to reporters afterwards.
During the Tuesday meeting, Yoon formally asked Park to attend his inauguration on May 10 if her health permits.
Park was said to have replied, "I am not confident in my current health condition, but I will try to attend if possible."
Kwon said, "The president-elect has reiterated that he was very sorry for the ill-fated relationship between the special prosecutor and the suspect in the past."
Yoo said the president-elect told Park he had always felt apologetic and had "no excuses" for their past relationship, and that the former president "listened calmly" without any special remarks.
Park said to Yoon, "It's the first time we are meeting, but it feels like we have known each other for a long time," according to Yoo.
Yoon noted there were successful policies made by Park that are not well known and that he plans to learn from them and widely publicize her accomplishments to "properly credit her and restore her honor," said Kwon. Park was said to have expressed her gratitude.
Yoon promised to make sure that Park is given proper security as a former president, including when she visits the hospital in Seoul, according to Kwon.
Yoon also mentioned that he has referred to accounts of how former President Park Chung Hee, father of Park Geun-hye, managed his Cabinet and the Blue House to learn more about state affairs.
In turn, Park asked Yoon to become a "good president" and Yoon asked for her advice. The two discussed the Daegu region, where Park has a strong base of support.
The meeting appears to put behind the two nine years of bad blood dating to 2013, when Yoon led investigations into allegations that the top spy agency National Intelligence Service (NIS) was involved in online public opinion manipulation in support of Park during the December 2012 presidential campaign. The investigation led to a demotion for Yoon, who revealed he had received external pressure from Park's justice minister. He made a comeback with the 2016 special probe of Park's corruption scandal and was made prosecutor general in June 2019 under the Moon Jae-in administration.
On the presidential campaign trail in December, Yoon acknowledged it had been his duty to investigate Park, but said, "I feel truly sorry politically and emotionally as a human being."
Yoon's visit came 19 days after Park moved into the residence in Daegu, her birthplace.
Yoon delivered congratulatory orchids to Park on her discharge from the hospital on March 24.
Upon her return to Daegu, Park told reporters that she would "add whatever little strength" she has to help "contribute to the development" of Daegu and Korea.
Yoon was on a two-day visit to Daegu and North Gyeongsang, referred to as the TK region and traditionally a conservative stronghold, since Monday.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]