The nation’s eyes and ears will be fixed to televisions Tuesday morning, when former President Park Geun-hye enters a prosecution office in Seoul to undergo questioning by state prosecutors.
The scene will be another disgraceful moment for the Korean presidency, which has already been marred by numerous cases of corruption and even by assassination and suicide.
Park, who faces 13 charges including bribery, abuse of power and coercion, is the fourth former president to face prosecution. Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were indicted for corruption and mutiny and Roh Moo-hyun killed himself during an investigation into corruption allegations.
Before them, Syngman Rhee, the republic’s first president, had to go into exile and Park Chung-hee, the latest former president’s father, was shot to death by a key aide.
The late former Presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung and Lee Myung-bak, Park Geun-hye’s immediate predecessor, did not face criminal charges against themselves, but their family members and friends were prosecuted for corruption.
This shameful history and the latest case involving Park Geun-hye show that we have yet to address many wrongs in the Korean presidency and society as a whole.
There are a lot of things to do, like curbing the power of the president, cutting collusive ties between politics and business and enhancing transparency, to name a few.
The most urgent thing is to find the truth in the influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil. Getting all the facts and truths and ensuring due punishment of all those responsible should precede any actions dealing with the scandal and its aftermath.
It is hoped in that regard that Park reverse her position and tell prosecutors what really happened between her and those implicated in the case, including Choi, senior government officials and business tycoons.
One cannot but be skeptical, however, about the possibility of Park telling the truth, given that she has insisted that “there is a mountain of lies” and that she had been framed. More specifically, she said she neither sought her own interests nor helped Choi make personal gains through foundations and firms Choi controlled.
Park stated that “the truth will come out without fail” when she returned to her private home nine days ago. That also indicated that she will refute the allegations against her.
That would increase the possibility of prosecutors seeking a detention warrant for Park, since previous investigations by the state prosecution and then an independent counsel corroborated many of the allegations, some of which the Constitutional Court cited as reasons for ousting Park as president.
Park’s truthful answers to prosecutors (they are said to have prepared 200 pages of questions) are also essential for handing out a fair judgement to all implicated in the scandal, not least Choi, Samsung Group’s de facto chief Lee Jae-yong who was charged with offering bribes to Park and Choi, and Park’s former chief of staff Kim Ki-choon who was indicted for his alleged involvement in blacklisting artists and cultural figures for political reasons.
As prosecutors’ grilling of Park on those questions and Park’s answers and attitude would determine Park’s fate -- the key issue is whether she will be put into custody or not -- her supporters should not resort to any excessive acts.
We raise this concern because some supporters of Park -- in contrast to anti-Park protesters who demonstrated peacefully -- rejected the ruling of the Constitutional Court and engaged in violent acts.
Park, her defense lawyers and conservatives politicians should refrain from making comments that could incite violence. The ongoing campaign for the May 9 election to select Park’s successor is already deepening the chasm in Korean society and the nation simply cannot afford to any greater instability.