President Park hires lawyer ahead of questioning
SOUTH Korea’s President Park Geunhye has hired a lawyer ahead of questioning by prosecutors over a snowballing political scandal that has engulfed her administration, her spokesperson said yesterday.
Ms Park, who would be the first sitting president to be interrogated in a criminal case, has seen her approval ratings plunge, with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to Seoul’s streets on November 12 demanding she resign.
The scandal centres on Ms Park’s shadowy confidant Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of using her ties with the president to coerce local firms to donate millions of dollars to non-profit foundations that Ms Choi then used for personal benefit.
Ms Choi, whose father was a reclusive religious figure and a long-time mentor to Ms Park until his death in 1994, was arrested earlier this month for abuse of power and fraud. Two presidential aides have also been arrested.
Ms Choi, 60, is also accused of interfering in state affairs to the extent of nominating officials and editing Ms Park’s speeches even though she has no official title or security clearance.
Prosecutors on November 13 announced a plan to formally quiz Ms Park this week over allegations she helped Ms Choi extract money from the firms and allowed presidential aides to leak documents to Ms Choi.
Ms Park’s newly retained lawyer, Yoo Young-ha, will discuss with Seoul prosecutors exactly when, where and how the president would be
questioned, a spokesperson told reporters yesterday.
Mr Yoo, 54, is a former prosecutor and currently a standing committee member on Seoul’s human rights commission.
Under South Korea’s constitution, the incumbent president may not be charged with a criminal offence except insurrection or treason.
But many have argued the sitting president can be investigated by prosecutors and then charged after leaving office.
Protesters shout slogans calling for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye during an anti-government rally in central Seoul on November 12.