More Blue House Officials Questioned for Allegedly Leaking Classified Documents to President Park's Friend
SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors on Monday questioned two former presidential secretaries who resigned last month following the latest influence-peddling scandal centered on President Park Geun-hye's confidante.
Ahn Bong-geun and Lee Jae-man appeared before the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office at around 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., respectively, to undergo questioning over Choi Soon-sil, suspected of meddling in state affairs and amassing wealth based on her ties to the president.
"I will talk with the prosecution," Ahn told reporters, entering the prosecutors' office. He declined to comment on any allegations raised against him.
"I will fully cooperate with the prosecution's investigation," Lee said, also declining to comment further.
The two, who served as presidential secretaries for public relations and administrative affairs, respectively, were among Park's longest-serving aides who resigned late last month following the scandal, which has shaken Park's presidency.
Along with former presidential secretary Jeong Ho-seong, they were among Park's most trusted secretaries who had been working with her since she was a lawmaker.'
Prosecutors suspect that Ahn and Lee were involved in leaking presidential records to Choi, who allegedly possessed a tablet PC with presidential documents on it ranging from Park's speech notes to those related to sensitive policy issues. Jeong has already been put under detention over similar allegations.
The questioning comes a day after the prosecution announced it would carry out direct questioning of the president early this week to investigate her role in the widening scandal surrounding Choi.
The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae is expected to announce how it will proceed with the questioning around Tuesday. The office is expected to select legal counsel for Park in what will be the first prosecutorial questioning of a sitting South Korean president in the country's history.
Park has already expressed her willingness to accept direct questioning when she made her second public apology delivered on Nov. 4.
Despite efforts to allay public outrage over the scandal, her approval rating remained at a record-low 5 percent last week, according to local pollster Gallup Korea.
On Saturday, some hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets in the largest numbers since the democratization of the country to demand Park's resignation. Organizers said up to 1 million people took part in the protest, while police put the number at 260,000.
On Monday, 70 lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic Party held a press conference in front of the Seoul Central District Court and demanded Park be questioned as a criminal suspect.
"She is not a person to bear witness to the scandal, but a suspect at the heart of it, who caused a million citizens to hit the streets," they said.
Still, the prosecution remained cautious on commenting about whether Park's status can change to that of a suspect during the interrogation.
"It is not a common thing, even for ordinary people (to have their status changed)," said a senior prosecutor at the investigation team. "We cannot talk about what will happen after the questioning. We haven't even started yet."
Under the country's law, incumbent presidents have legal immunity from prosecution.
Also on Monday, investigators raided the southern Seoul home of Cho Won-dong, who served as a senior economic secretary to Park between 2013 and 2014, and confiscated his cell phone, computer hard drives and personal documents.
Cho is suspected of pushing the country's food and entertainment giant CJ Group in late 2013 to depose its Vice Chairwoman Lee Mie-kyung, saying it was the will of the president.
Lee was in charge of the conglomerate's entertainment arm, which aired a TV show and distributed a film that were viewed by some conservatives as "leftist." She is known to have remained in the United States since 2014, citing a hereditary disease.'