The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Tuesday that it will summon former President Park Geun-hye as a suspect for in-person questioning, over a wide-ranging corruption scandal that led to her expulsion from office.
“We will decide tomorrow when to summon her and notify her,” a source at the office said.
The summons date is not negotiable, the official added.
A flag of Prosecution Service (Yonhap)
If summoned, Park will face a grilling similar to her jailed confidante Choi Soon-sil who is at the center of the scandal.
“The summoning by prosecutors will possibly take place at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, part of their efforts to show courtesy to the former president,” said Nam Kyoung-kook, a law professor at University of Seoul Law School.
Other observers said Park could be questioned on the seventh floor of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, where Choi had undergone questioning in October.
Park’s legal team has yet to let out comments on the prosecution’s announcement.
The prosecution’s move comes four days after the Constitutional Court unanimously voted to unseat Park over a scandal involving bribery, influence peddling and systematic leaks of government secrets. The decision stripped her of presidential immunity to criminal prosecution.
Upon returning to her private residence in southern Seoul on Sunday, Park said through a spokesman that the truth would be revealed someday, which was largely taken as a continuation of her earlier stance to deny any wrongdoings and a hint at a legal fight against the charges raised against her.
Special counsel Park Young-soo, who investigated Park’s scandal until Feb. 28, has booked Park as an accomplice in a bribery case involving Choi and Samsung Group. The state prosecutors have handed over all investigative records from the counsel to continue the probe.
If the questioning session realizes, Park will become the fourth president of South Korea to be investigated by state prosecutors after retirement, following ex-presidents Roh Tae-woo, Chun Doo-hwan and now-deceased Roh Moo-hyun. The three were all openly summoned by the prosecution.
The prosecution said it will confirm the way Park will be summoned and questioned after reviewing the past practices involving former presidents.
Ex-President Roh Tae-woo was brought in to prosecutors’ office in November 1995 over allegations he created a slush fund worth hundreds of billions won. “I feel sorry that I caused a stir,” he told reporters as he stepped into the top prosecutors’ office.
A month later, the prosecution summoned ex-state chief Chun Doon-hwan on charges of treason and munity after his crackdown on pro-democracy movement in southern city of Gwangju in May 1980 killed hundreds of the protestors. Chun refused summons by the prosecution and stayed at his hometown, which led the prosecution to detain him and investigate him behind bars.
Roh and Chun later respectively received a 17-year prison term and life sentence on charges of mutiny and treason for their roles in the 1979 coup and the 1980 Gwangju Uprising. They were pardoned in December 1997.
Former President Roh Moo-hyun, who committed suicide during a probe into bribery allegations involving his family members, appeared before the top prosecutors’ office in April 2009 after his presidential term ended. He said “I am ashamed” before entering the prosecutors’ office.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org
) and Bak Se-hwan(email@example.com