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Thursday, January 26, 2017, 12:23

Impeached South Korean president plans to be quizzed by prosecutors

By Xinhua

Impeached South Korean president plans to be quizzed by prosecutors
A supporter holds a picture of South Korean President Park Geun-hye as others hold their national flags during a rally opposing her impeachment in Seoul, South Korea, Dec31, 2016. (Lee Jin-man / AP)

SEOUL – Impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye has said on an internet TV that she plans to get interrogated by an independent counsel team investigating a scandal that led to her impeachment.

President Park held an exclusive interview with a conservative podcast, which was broadcast on Wednesday night, saying schedules for the interrogation are now under arrangement.

The special prosecutors said its face-to-face investigation into the president should be conducted as late as the beginning of February

The special prosecutors said its face-to-face investigation into the president should be conducted as late as the beginning of February.

Their probe is scheduled to terminate by the end of February. It can be extended for 30 days if Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who serves as acting president, allows it.

Park has yet to be quizzed by the independent counsel team as well as general prosecutors, which had identified Park as a criminal accomplice to her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil .

Choi, now in custody, is suspected of meddling in government affairs behind the scenes and taking bribes from large businesses, including Samsung Group, the country's largest family-controlled conglomerate.

READ MORE: Park rejects accusations against her

The impeached leader said no review has been made on whether to appear in the constitutional court's pleading session, indicating her unwillingness to attend the hearings that will determine her fate.

The constitutional court has been deliberating on the impeachment motion since it was passed in the parliament on Dec 9. The court has up to 180 days to rule, but it is speeding up proceedings to make the ruling before the middle of March.

Park Han-chul, the court's chief justice whose tenure ends this month, said Wednesday that the ruling should be made before the middle of March given that one more justice ends her term on March 13.

The impeachment bill can be finalized if six of the nine judges uphold or reject it. One more judge's retirement will require approvals from six of the seven remaining justices, which can distort the historic ruling, the outgoing judge said.

ALSO READ: Park's confidante shouts out her innocence

President Park's legal team had asked the court to bring in 39 more witnesses to the pleading session, adding to the long list in what was seen as an attempt to delay the proceedings. It had also taken issue with key evidences and testimonies, which the lawyers claimed were fabricated.

In an apparent attempt to damage credibility, Choi shouted for a pressed investigation by the special prosecutors on Wednesday morning when she was forcibly summoned following her repeated refusals to be interrogated, TV footage showed.

Choi's attorney held a separate press conference on Thursday morning, claiming that Choi was threatened during the questioning.

Impeached South Korean president plans to be quizzed by prosecutors
Choi Sun-sil (C) arrives at the central district court in Seoul on January 17, 2017. Choi is accused of using her ties with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye to coerce top local firms to "donate" nearly US$70 million to dubious non-profit foundations Choi then used as her personal ATMs. (Kim Min-Hee / Pool / AFP)

Some local media reports speculated that President Park's interview with an internet podcast and Choi's claim for intimidation may be intended to appeal to conservative voters ahead of the lunar New Year's holiday that will last until next Monday.

President Park, who is stripped of all executive powers, held an unexpected meeting with press corps in her office on the New Year's Day. It caused criticism as the press conference was privately used by the president to defend her criminal charges.

Political parties condemned Park's interview with an internet TV, demanding the impeached leader appear in court to defend herself.

Read more: Daughter of Park’s friend held in Denmark amid graft probe

The biggest opposition Minjoo Party described it as "dirty tricks," while the minor opposition People's Party called on the president to appear in the constitutional court's pleading session or to be investigated by prosecutors.

The parliamentary committee, which serves as prosecutors in the constitutional court's trial, planned to revise the impeachment motion to focus more on President Park's constitutional violation and help gain speed in the court's ruling.

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