South Korea’s presidential Blue House blocks search
Park’s office denies access to prosecutors
South Korean special prosecutor officials withdrew from the presidential Blue House on Friday after it blocked them from searching offices there, in the latest twist in a corruption scandal that has gripped the country for months.
Park Geun-hye was impeached by parliament on December 9 on suspicion of colluding with a longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big business to donate to two foundations set up to back the president’s policy initiatives.
Park is also accused of allowing Choi to exert inappropriate influence over state affairs. Both of them have denied wrongdoing.
The special prosecution office has not explained why it needs to search the Blue House, saying only that it would be done in connection with its investigation.
A prosecution team trying to carry out a search on Friday was blocked at a gate into the compound, the office said. The prosecution said later it had asked acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn for cooperation in getting access to search the presidential offices.
“We arrived at the conclusion we cannot force our search if the subject refuses,” Lee Kyu-chul, the spokesman for the special prosecutor, told a media briefing.
The Blue House expressed regret and called the attempt to search the presidential office unconstitutional as the president cannot be charged with a crime while in office.
“It is a deep regret that their ex- cessive investigation with a warrant naming the president as a suspect violates the constitution,” the office said in a statement, referring to the prosecutor’s warrant to raid the office.
The law states that as long as Park remains president, she cannot be charged with any criminal offense except insurrection or treason.
The Blue House said earlier the offices could not be searched for security reasons and it would instead provide documents as requested by prosecutors.
Park was stripped of her powers after parliament voted to impeach her, but she remains in the Blue House compound.