Their accounts are in line with those of the secretaries of former President Lee Myung-bak, who have also said he usually turned up at the main building and retreated to his residence following a regular schedule.
Since taking on the position as commander in chief, Park has earned notoriety for her reclusiveness, shunning face-to-face conversations even with many of her top secretaries in favor of phone calls and briefing papers.
During a recent New Year’s meeting with reporters, the president said herself she would usually remain at her residence if she had no appointments, because she has “no family and may take guests there.”
|Cheong Wa Dae (Yonhap)|
Yet her failure to promptly respond to the ferry tragedy incurred the wrath of bereaved families who believe her absence during the critical first hour following its 9 a.m. capsizing had resulted in the needless loss of far too many lives.
“How could she insist she was normally performing her duty after being briefed on the accident in her residence only at 10 a.m., when every citizen was already aware of it and the kids were drowning?” Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho said at a party meeting earlier in the day.
“It seems the bed has somehow transformed into an office under this administration. ... Now let’s have the president’s chief of staff and prime minister alike work at their residences as well.”
With Park struggling to come clean about her seven-hour whereabouts, a flurry of rumors and allegations have emerged, ranging from a secret love affair to shamanist exorcism to plastic surgery.
Last week, Rep. Park Ju-min of the Democratic Party said after analyzing Cheong Wa Dae data that the president cleared her Wednesday schedule for six consecutive weeks starting April 2, 2016. He raised suspicions she may have had received cosmetic procedures from Kim Young-jae, who runs a hospital frequented by her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, noting his clinic is closed Wednesdays.
Though he denied a meeting with Park on the day of the Sewol sinking, Kim, who is not an authorized presidential doctor, acknowledged he had treated her at the presidential palace “on several occasions” during a parliamentary questioning last month.