Choi Soon-sil, the jailed confidante of President Park Geun-hye, took the witness stand in Park’s impeachment trial Monday, but her apparent lack of humility only fueled anger among the public.
At the fifth hearing of the Constitutional Court on Monday, Choi faced questioning by representatives of the National Assembly, which passed the impeachment bill last month. The questions focused on her alleged influence-peddling in state affairs and the troubled foundations which collected donations from companies, including Samsung.
On the witness stand, Choi displayed her uneasiness in facing the allegations, interrupted people as they asked her questions and denied any wrongdoing.
When asked about her role in policymaking with President Park in the cultural sector, Choi took issue with the intention behind the question, saying, “What role could I possibly have in state affairs with the president?”
Choi had allegedly helped her associate Cha Eun-taek, a former TV commercial director, to win lucrative cultural projects. Cha’s charges include abuse of power, coercion and embezzlement.
Choi Soon-sil enters a courtroom in Seoul for the fifth hearing on a motion of impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, Jan. 16, 2017. (Yonhap)
In answer to another question on what she did on the day the ferry Sewol sank, she said, “I don’t even remember what happened yesterday.”
Choi also responded defensively when quizzed over whether the Ministry of Culture had ever assisted the two entities -- the Mir and K-Sports foundations -- that are suspected to be covers for channeling money to her own interests. She said, “Why would you even ask me that when I have no relationship with the ministry?”
Other remarks Choi made at the hearing included, “I don’t exactly get what you want to hear from me,” “Ask more specifically,” and “This is not a prosecutor’s investigation, so no loaded questions.”
Regarding questions on the testimony she gave at a prosecutorial investigation earlier, she refused to answer, claiming that she was “forced to make confessions” during the investigation.
The shameless court demeanor of Choi, however, turned 180 degrees in the afternoon, when the questioning from President Park’s attorney began at the same court. To questions asked by Park’s lawyer, Lee Jung-hwan, Choi answered them thoroughly, without using vague words or refusing to answer. She even shed tears while vehemently defending her embattled friend. “Park has no one else around, so I just wanted to help her.” she said.
It is the first time that Choi has attended the impeachment trial of her longtime friend President Park. Since Dec. 9, Park’s presidential powers have been suspended, after the National Assembly voted to impeach her. She is now fighting the case in court, claiming she is not an accomplice in the Choi scandal.
As criticism surfaced over Choi’s demeanor during the trial, Choi’s lawyer fired back, saying, “The questions were subpar.”
Choi is jailed and standing a criminal trial of her own. She is accused of forcing businesses to give donations to two nonprofit foundations by using her ties to the president, which led to Park being suspended from office last December.
By Bak Se-hwan (email@example.com