Opposition Government Accuses President Park of Using Delay to Prepare Counterattack
SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's opposition parties on Wednesday said President Park Geun-hye must promptly answer questions surrounding the influence-peddling scandal involving her confidante, after her attorney asked state prosecutors for a delay in the questioning session.
On Tuesday, Park's legal representative asked prosecutors to give more time ahead of a face-to-face questioning, which would mark the first of its kind for an incumbent president in South Korea's history.
Yoo Yeong-ha, who was tapped for the post only the day before, said he needed more time to look over all the pertinent information surrounding the allegations raised so far to better represent the chief executive.
Prosecutors had wanted to question Park by Thursday at the latest, but Yoo and the presidential office hinted that next week is more realistic.
Under South Korean law the sitting president is exempt from criminal prosecution unless he or she is implicated in insurrection or treason.
The chief executive has been facing the biggest crisis of her political career amid allegations over the Choi Soon-sil scandal whom she had known for more than 40 years. Choi is accused of meddling in state affairs and may have benefited financially by using her ties with the president. Local media claimed numerous incidents of corruption linked to people Choi may have placed in the government and the public sector.
"If this situation continues, we cannot guarantee the safety of Park after her term ends," said Rep. Woo Sang-ho, the floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, condemning Park's request to delay the probe.
Woo added prosecutors must decide whether to give ground or respect the people's call for a fair investigation.
"The presidential office and the pro-Park faction of the Saenuri Party is only attempting to drag more time to seek an exit from the situation, despite the call from the people asking for her resignation," said Rep. Park Jie-won, the floor leader of the splinter People's Party.
"(Park) is seeking a counterattack only a few days after observing a million protesters holding candles," the party whip claimed, arguing that the public wants Park to step down.
On Saturday, over 1 million people are estimated to have joined the candlelight rally at Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul, demanding Park step down from office.
Last week, Park's approval rating was a mere 5 percent, according to a survey conducted by local pollster Gallup Korea.
Political observers, meanwhile, said that with political parties agreeing to appoint a special prosecutor to take charge of the scandal, the presidential office may be opting to wait for that investigation to start before offering testimony. Others said that while the opposition may be taking issue with the delay, asking for more time so a lawyer can examine all the information needed to give good legal advice to a client is not out of the ordinary, particularly since it involves the president of a country.'