S Korea's Park apologises, promises cooperation in graft investigation

Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye apologised to the country as she arrived at the prosecutors' offices for questioning as a criminal suspect in a widening corruption investigation.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

South Korea's first female president Park was impeached by parliament in December as millions of people took to the streets to demand her removal.

Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye was questioned by prosecutors on Tuesday over the corruption and abuse of power scandal that brought her down, after using executive privilege to avoid them for months while in office.

Park apologised to the public as she arrived at the prosecutors' office in Seoul, adding, "I will undergo the investigation sincerely."

TRT World's Joseph Kim reports from Seoul

South Korea's first female president, Park was impeached by parliament in December as millions of people took to the streets to demand her removal over the sprawling scandal, which has exposed the links between politics and business in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Her dismissal was confirmed by the country's top court earlier this month, ending the political career of a woman who grew up in the presidential palace as the daughter of military-backed dictator Park Chung-hee.

A private citizen once again, Park's convoy drove slowly through crowds of flag-waving supporters lining the street outside her home some of them lying on the pavement to try to block her exit before she left.

TRT World's Bruce Harrison has more details from the South Korean capital Seoul.

Lengthy questioning

Questioning by prosecutors is a key step in South Korea's judicial process before a suspect is charged. It can last for many hours, late into the night and can be repeated if officials deem it necessary.

Park faced two prosecutors and an investigator, and was accompanied by one of her lawyers, but standard procedure bars him from interjecting, only allowing consultations during rest breaks — which could be an issue for her.

Park faces multiple charges from abuse of power and coercion to bribery, and is the fourth former South Korean leader to be probed or jailed over corruption scandals.

Park has been named as an accomplice of her secret confidante at the heart of the scandal, which has also seen Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong arrested and charged with bribery.

The friend, Choi Soon-sil, is accused of using her presidential ties to force local firms including Samsung to "donate" nearly $70 million to non-profit foundations she allegedly used for personal gain.

Park is accused of offering governmental favours to the business tycoons who enriched Choi, including Lee.

Finding truth

The ex-president has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and blamed Choi for abusing their friendship. Choi is on trial for charges including abuse of power and coercion.

A senior official from Park's party urged prosecutors not to be swayed by public opinion, but to find the truth and give Park the cordial treatment a former president deserves.

"Everyone, not only me, is feeling miserable and distressed," Chung Woo-taik, the party leader in parliament, told a meeting.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies