Former President Park Geun-hye, who underwent questioning by state prosecutors, now awaits their decision on whether they will seek a detention warrant for her or not. If they do, the final decision to issue it will be made by the court.
Park, who faces 13 charges including bribery and abuse of power, spent 22 hours at a prosecution office in Seoul until Wednesday morning. One of the core questions Park faced from prosecutors was about the allegation she conspired with her detained confidante Choi Soon-sil and former aides to pressure conglomerates to donate money to Choi’s foundations and people close to her in return for government favors.
Other key elements of the influence-peddling scandal involving Park and Choi include suspicions that the Park administration blacklisted some artists and cultural figures for political reasons and that Park allowed leaks of classified documents to Choi.
As expected, Park was said to have denied most allegations. It had been anticipated because Park had kept insisting that the conglomerates donated money voluntarily for good causes and that she and Choi did not seek personal gains. Park reiterated her position when the Constitutional Court ousted her as president, saying “the truth will come to light without fail.”
Entering the prosecution office Tuesday, Park said that she was sorry to the people and that she would faithfully receive the interrogation. These are ritualistic comments summoned suspects make before cameras and microphones, and they fell short of the public expectations that she would offer a sincere apology and accept at least some of her wrongdoings.
Now the ball is in the prosecution’s court. But whether to seek Park’s detention or not will not be an easy decision, in view of how complicated the case is.
Those who call for her detention point out that Park denies most key allegations and she had -- as the Constitutional Court cited as reason for her impeachment -- lied and tried to conceal facts in conspiracy with those implicated in the case. These entitle the prosecution to ask the court to issue a detention warrant for her.
Park’s supporters and some politicians like Yoo Seong-min, a presidential hopeful of the Bareun Party, call on the prosecution to indict Park without detention, considering there is no danger of Park going into hiding or tampering with evidence. Some also point out that she has already been punished via the impeachment ruling of the Constitutional Court.
Whatever decision the prosecution makes, it would have strong repercussions, especially on the presidential election now less than 50 days away. For instance, Park’s detention may anger her supporters and rally them behind conservative candidates and vice versa.
It is against this backdrop that the prosecution should make its decision purely on its own, without making any political consideration. So should the court in case the prosecution seeks Park’s detention.
What’s important is that -- for the sake of the rule of law -- Park should be the first to accept whatever decision is made by the prosecution and the court.
Both pro-Park and anti-Park groups held street demonstrations near her home and the prosecution office Tuesday and Wednesday. They go against the hope that future legal actions being taken against Park should not worsen the social and political conflicts that have already been inflicting unbearable pain to the nation.
Park’s removal from office and her likely prosecution -- there is no doubt that prosecutors will indict her regardless whether they take her into custody -- is certainly shameful. But at the same time, the nation should take pride in achieving Park’s ouster in an orderly, democratic manner.
This proud tradition of upholding peace, order and rule of law should be maintained in the coming criminal prosecution of Park. One such endeavor could be for both pro-Park and anti-Park enthusiasts on the streets to pack up their placards and pickets and go home. Park and politicians, including presidential aspirants, should ask them to do so. This nation has suffered enough.