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First court hearing on influence-peddling scandal to be held next month

A local court said Tuesday the first hearing on the influence-peddling scandal in which President Park Geun-hye was named an accomplice to a corruption scheme involving her friend and former aides will be held next month.

The Seoul Central District Court said the first preparatory hearing for Choi Soon-sil, Park's longtime friend, and two former presidential secretaries is slated for Dec. 13.

They were indicted on Sunday on a string of charges including abuse of authority and coercion for allegedly bullying local conglomerates and leaking government secrets.

Still, it is unlikely that the defendants show up in the courtroom, as it is not mandatory for them to attend the preparatory procedures, which are meant for the prosecution and defense to discuss how the upcoming court hearings should proceed.

"We tried to get the date as soon as possible, as this case has been designated as a crucial one that needs to be dealt with promptly," a court official said.

The prosecution's indictment announcement on Sunday has had a ripple effect, as it said Park allegedly "colluded" with the three people that will stand trial, making her the first sitting South Korean president to be named as a criminal suspect.

While making it clear that they cannot indict Park due to the Constitution which stipulates that the country's president is immune from indictment, prosecutors said they will continue with the investigation.

Earlier on Tuesday, a senior prosecutor of the investigation team again said it is necessary to carry out a face-to-face questioning of the president to get to the bottom of the case. Park has been declining to respond to the prosecution's request.

Following Sunday's announcement, Park's attorney has said he will no longer cooperate with the prosecution's investigation, denying all of the allegations raised against the president as being built on conjecture and not facts. (Yonhap)
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