NATIONAL

Park, Choi deny all charges

By KH디지털2
  • Published : Jan 5, 2017 - 16:39
  • Updated : Jan 6, 2017 - 09:35

President Park Geun-hye’s lawyers denied all the charges against her during the second hearing of her impeachment trial Thursday, taking issue with the political neutrality of the ongoing investigation into the scandal involving Park and questioning the validity of evidence.

At a separate trial also held Thursday, key figures accused of being involved in Park’s alleged corruption -- including the president’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil -- also denied the core allegations against them. 

An administrative staff of the presidential office Yoon Jeon-choo testified as a witness for Park’s trial at the Constitutional Court and offered some clues on what Park did at the time of the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014. Her seven-hour absence is a key controversy, which contributed to Park’s impeachment. 

The top court’s nine justices, headed by chief Park Han-chul, proceeded despite her absence, according to the Constitutional Court Act. She will likely remain absent for the hearings, her lawyers said. 


“Park has never let her aides meddle in state affairs and appointed government officials through legitimate procedures,” said Park’s lawyer Lee Joong-hwan during the hearing. “She also took necessary measures to cope with the Sewol ferry accident. There is no evidence for her alleged bribery, abuse of authority and coercion based on objective facts.”

He asked the court to look into the evidence presented by the parliament “sternly,” as he claims it is only based on what he called politically biased investigation by an independent counsel and false media reports. The denial of the validity of the evidence is seen as an attempt to prolong court proceedings.

The parliamentary impeachment committee, which serves as a prosecutor in the trial, said that the president seriously violated the Constitution and law in performing her presidential duty by using state affairs as a tool for her personal gains. 

The charges center on allegations that President Park colluded with her longtime friend Choi to extort money from local conglomerates, failed to protect people’s lives at the time of the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014 and allowed Choi, who has no official government post, to manipulate power behind the scenes for her personal gains. 

Choi Soon-sil (Yonhap)
“Through the decision to impeach the president, we will reconfirm the principle that the people are the owners of this country and the president’s use of authority against public trust,” Rep. Kwon Seong-dong, chairman of the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee. 

“Ousting the president is aimed not only at recovering the national loss and vacuum in the running of state affairs but at restoring the constitutional order.”

In the hearing, three of the four key witnesses -- Park’s closest secretaries Lee Jae-man and Ahn Bong-geun, and an administrative employee Lee Young-sun -- refused to appear at the court. Only Yoon Jeon-choo attended the session. 

Yoon, who was in charge of helping Park’s personal and private affairs, said that she was called in at 8:30 a.m. in the morning and attended to “unofficial” business with Park at the president’s residence. 

“I don’t remember what business exactly it was about, but I remember it was about her personal stuff,” she said without elaborating further.

She also offered new testimonies that the president met ex-presidential aide Ahn Bong-geun in the morning on the day of the Sewol accident and two hair stylists visited Park in the afternoon. She also denied rumors that Park held a religious cult ritual or received a plastic surgery at the presidential office while the ferry was sinking.

The ex-presidential aides did not respond to the court summoning, remaining in hiding, while the administrative employee Lee is set to be brought back in to testify Thursday. 

Park’s other lawyer Seo Seok-gu appeared to taint the meaning of the candlelight vigils that have taken place for the past two months against the president, which had prompted her impeachment. 

“The sentiment shown during the candlelight vigils does not reflect the public sentiment, given it was led by a labor union group,” he said. Seo added that the majority rule can be dangerous when it is based on inaccurate media reports, citing the Greek philosopher Socrates who was sentenced to death and Jesus carrying the cross.

Kwon immediately shot back, asking the court to stop him from talking about matters unrelated to clarifying the charges listed in the impeachment motion. “Who led the candlelight vigils has completely nothing to do with the impeachment trial,” he said. 

The Constitutional Court explained the key points in the impeachment trial and confirmed the list of evidence and witnesses during the hearing. It also asked for cooperation from both sides not to distract from its main focus while reminding them that the trial is not a criminal trial. 

The National Assembly voted to oust Park on Dec. 9, stripping her of substantial executive powers, over the corruption scandal. The top court has until early June to decide whether to uphold or overturn Park’s impeachment. 

For the hearing scheduled for Tuesday, other key suspects -- Choi, former presidential aides An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong -- are expected to testify before the justices.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)