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