Ex-President Park Geun-hye spent all night inside the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Tuesday, answering questions about the massive corruption scandal that led to her ouster and reviewing her statement.
Outside, detractors and die-hard supporters chanted slogans while Park answered questions “clearly and calmly,” according to prosecutors, and did not insist on her right to remain silent.
Park left her home in Samseong-dong in southern Seoul at around 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday and finally emerged from the prosecutors’ office some 22 hours later.
Questioning lasted until 11:40 p.m., but Park and her lawyers took another six-and-a-half hours to review the written statement. She left at 6:55 on Wednesday morning.
“Questioning took so long since there are many issues that need to be investigated and time was also needed to read the written evidence,” a prosecution spokesman said.
Park, who had refused to be questioned while she was protected by her presidential immunity, appeared 11 days after the Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment.
Prosecutors went out of their way to accommodate her, backing down on a plan to record the entire interrogation on video. A female prosecutor took down her statement in consideration of Park’s gender. Her lawyer Sohn Beom-kyu said, “We checked her physical condition during every rest period, but overall questioning progressed smoothly.”
Prosecutors accuse Park of eight criminal offenses, including colluding with her friend Choi Soon-sil to extort W77.4 billion in donations for the dubious Mir and K-Sports foundations, telling staff to hand over classified government documents to Choi and pressuring state-run telecom KT and other businesses to sign business deals with an advertising company owned by her crony.
A separate probe by independent counsel Park Young-soo also accused Park of bribery after concluding that W20.4 billion donated by Samsung to the two nonprofits and another W22.9 billion in pledged donations were in return for Park’s help in easing the illegal ascent to the conglomerate’s leadership of Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong.
The independent counsel also indicted former Cheong Wa Dae chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and ex-culture minister Cho Yoon-sun of compiling, at Park’s orders, a blacklist of artists and cultural figures critical of her administration that aimed at cutting them off from public funding.
Park so far denied all the charges.
Prosecutors will decide either this weekend or early next week whether to indict Park. Legal experts believe the indictment will come before April 15, when candidate registration for the next presidential election begins.
Former President Park Geun-hye leaves the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday. /Yonhap