South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial Blue House blocks search

Park’s of­fice de­nies ac­cess to pros­e­cu­tors

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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