Law­mak­ers quiz doc­tors about Park’s ‘miss­ing’ 7 hours

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in Seoul

Seven hours may have sealed the fate of South Korea’s be­lea­guered Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye. That was the time be­tween the first news re­ports that the Se­wol ferry car­ry­ing hun­dreds of chil­dren was sink­ing off the na­tion’s south­ern coast on April 16, 2014, and her first TV ap­pear­ance that day.

The tragedy, which claimed the lives of 304 peo­ple — many of them chil­dren from one high school — con­tin­ues to gnaw at the na­tion’s con­scious­ness, es­pe­cially be­cause a rescue ef­fort was widely seen as botched.

A lack of in­for­ma­tion on Park’s where­abouts and ac­tions dur­ing that time has fu­eled con­spir­acy the­o­ries which have re-emerged dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a scan­dal that is poised to bring down her pres­i­dency.

The miss­ing seven hours may have marked a turn­ing point in Park’s re­la­tion­ship with the na­tion’s peo­ple.

“What was she do­ing while the chil­dren were dy­ing?” asked Kim Geum-ja — whose son was killed in the tragedy — and who is among a group of ac­tivists camped out in cen­tral Seoul af­ter the dis­as­ter. “What was so ur­gent that she was miss­ing for seven hours?”

Park’s for­mer med­i­cal staff, in­clud­ing two per­sonal doc­tors and two nurses, ap­peared on Wed­nes­day, as was a sur­geon who treated Choi Soon-sil, Park’s friend at the cen­ter of the po­lit­i­cal scan­dal.

Last month, Park’s of­fice pub­lished a page on its web­site de­tail­ing what re­ports the pres­i­dent re­ceived, and when, on the day of the sink­ing in a bid to quell the ru­mors about what she was do­ing at the time.

The of­fi­cial time­line de­tails ex­actly when Park re­ceived re­ports or gave or­ders, in­clud­ing an early de­mand — less than an hour af­ter the doomed ferry be­gan to sink.

But the time­line does not re­veal where Park was or what she was do­ing as she gave those or­ders, fur­ther fu­el­ing spec­u­la­tion.

Park’s pow­ers were sus­pended on Fri­day af­ter Par­lia­ment voted to im­peach her over al­le­ga­tions she col­luded with Choi and a for­mer aide to pres­sure big busi­nesses to do­nate to foun­da­tions back­ing key pol­icy ini­tia­tives.

What was she do­ing while the chil­dren were dy­ing? What was so ur­gent that she was miss­ing for seven hours?” Kim Geum-ja, mother of a boy who was killed in sink­ing

Anti-wrin­kle treat­ment

Park Young-sun of the op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party held up a plac­ard at last week’s hear­ing show­ing two pho­tos of Park, be­fore and af­ter the day of the dis­as­ter.

The pho­tos fo­cused on Park’s eyes, which she said ap­peared to have un­der­gone anti-wrin­kle treat­ment. Park’s of­fice has de­nied she had been re­ceiv­ing Bo­tox in­jec­tions at the time.

Kim Ki-choon, Park’s chief of staff at the time, told the hear­ing he was un­aware of Park’s pre­cise lo­ca­tion within the pres­i­den­tial com­plex dur­ing the seven hours.

Last week, the Hanky­oreh news­pa­per re­ported that a hair­dresser from the Toni&Guy sa­lon in Gang­nam, a gl­itzy neigh­bor­hood in south­ern Seoul, had spent 90 min­utes styling Park’s hair dur­ing the seven hours.

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