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Ousted Park shows up to attend hearing on arrest warrant

Former President Park Geun-hye turned up at a local court Thursday to fight against the prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant against her on corruption charges.

Park arrived at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul at around 10:20 a.m. after a 10-minute drive from her residence to attend the hearing, which will likely continue for several hours. A decision on whether she will be arrested with physical detention is expected to come early Friday.

The prosecution asked the court to issue the writ to arrest Park on Monday, citing that her charges are too serious, there is a possibility of Park destroying evidence and other key figures involved in the scandal have already been arrested.

Park’s longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the corruption scandal, former presidential aides, ex-ministers and Samsung Group’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, have been arrested and are standing trial.

Park is suspected of extorting donations worth 77.4 billion won ($69.6 million) from local firms including Samsung Group for the Mir and K-Sports foundations controlled by Choi in return for political favors.

An independent counsel team, which has ended its 70-day probe into the scandal, suspected that part of Samsung’s donations had been bribes in return for political favors.

Samsung is accused of offering or promising to offer funds totaling 43.3 billion won to Park’s friend Choi and her business interests in exchange for the Park administration’s backing of a 2015 merger of its two affiliates. The merger was a crucial step for the smooth transfer of power from the ailing group Chairman Lee Kun-hee to his only son Lee Jae-yong.

Park’s other charges include allowing Choi to meddle in state affairs, leaking government secrets to her and discriminating against liberal-leaning artists.

Park has denied all the charges. She said local firms voluntarily donated the money and claimed no knowledge of any illegal activities by Choi and her inner circle.

Park was expelled from office on March 10, with less than a year remaining in her five-year term, in a unanimous decision by the Constitutional Court to finalize the Dec. 9 parliamentary impeachment.

The ruling stripped her of the immunity that had shielded her from criminal investigation.

By Ock Hyun-ju (