President Park's Lawyer Accuses Prosecution of Building Case upon 'Imagination and Conjecture'
SEOUL, Nov. 20 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye's attorney on Sunday rejected the prosecution's investigation results, saying he cannot accept any allegations that implicated the president as an accomplice in the corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving her confidante.
Casting doubts over the fairness and credibility of the prosecutorial probe, Yoo Yeong-ha claimed the interim results were based on "imagination and conjectures."
The attorney also stressed he will not respond to any requests for a direct inquiry into the president, and that he will, instead, prepare for an independent counsel probe expected to begin next month.
"I as (Park's) attorney cannot accept any part that listed Park as an accomplice," he said in a statement issued hours after the prosecution announced the interim outcome of its probe into the scandal that has rocked the country for the past several weeks.
"If you look at the prosecution's announcement, it built some sort of an imaginary house after repeating its imagination and conjectures (about the scandal) without exhaustively poring over evidence," he said.
In their announcement, prosecutors mentioned Park's alleged "complicity" in the scandal involving her friend Choi Soon-sil and her former key secretaries -- Ahn Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong -- among others.
The prosecution said Park colluded with Choi, Ahn and Jeong in "considerable parts" of the alleged criminal acts, turning the president's status to a suspect from a witness. It marks the first time a sitting president has been listed as a suspect in a criminal case.
The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae expressed "deep regret" over the investigation results, saying any allegations against Park are "by no means" true.
It also criticized the prosecution for "hastily" carrying out its probe and failing to offer the president an opportunity to explain her position, even though Park has expressed her intention to face questioning.
Cheong Wa Dae, then, stressed that it will establish Park's "innocence" through an independent counsel probe.
"The investigation team's announcement is by no means true," Jung Youn-kuk, presidential spokesman told reporters.
Jung, moreover, argued that the investigators did not maintain political neutrality regarding the probe.
Warning that the investigation outcome could further deepen political confusion and paralyze state affairs, the presidential office indicated its will to accept an impeachment process as a way to address an ongoing controversy over whether Park can continue to stay on as head of state.'
The investigation results further infuriated citizens, who have been calling for Park's resignation through massive street rallies across the nation, and spurred political discussions for her impeachment.
Park now faces allegations that through her aide, she allowed Choi to gain access to some 180 presidential speeches and government documents, some of which included classified information. The allegations raise the possibility of Park violating the law governing the handling of official secrets.
The president is also alleged to have directly or indirectly pressured major conglomerates into donating large sums of money to two nonprofit foundations, which legal experts say could constitute an abuse of authority.
Through her addresses to the nation on Oct. 25 and Nov. 4, the president admitted to handing over some of her speech drafts to Choi to get her advice, and claimed that her role in raising funds for the two foundations was based on "pure motives" to benefit the country.
Park's attorney denied all of the allegations, presaging a grueling legal battle.
He, in particular, said that the foundations in question were created as part of her official duties with clear policy goals, not for any personal gain, and that if anyone sought to use them for personal interests, it was done without the president's knowledge.
"The president knew nothing about Choi private business," the lawyer said. He said that while Park could be blamed for not keeping close tabs on those around her, she in no way tried to help people get rich.
The attorney also denied that Park directly ordered anyone to leak presidential speeches and documents.
He moreover rebuked the prosecution for revealing the allegations against the president, who has a legal immunity from prosecution except in cases of insurrection or treason.
Following the prosecution's announcement, opposition parties further raised pressure on Park to step down, stressing the allegations against her constitute legal conditions required for her impeachment.
"President Park has now become a suspect, creating legal conditions to table a motion for her impeachment," Youn Kwan-suk, spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party, told reporters.
"She should follow people's demands through a decision to resign voluntarily rather than making the worst choice that would plunge the nation into a bigger crisis," he added.
The minor opposition People's Party also echoed the Democratic Party's view.
"The country will function and move forward when the president, whom the prosecution portrays as an alleged accomplice, moves out (of the presidential office)," Lee Yong-ho, the party's spokesman, said in a statement.
During their "emergency political meeting," eight presidential hopefuls from the opposition camp decided to request that the National Assembly and three liberal parties discuss ways to push for Park's impeachment.
They also decided to call on the opposition parties to promptly come up with measures to minimize a possible government vacuum that could result from Park's resignation or impeachment, including appointing a parliament-picked premier and forming an "interim" Cabinet.
"It is very shameful that the prosecution confirmed allegations of criminal acts against a sitting president," Rep. Moon Jae-in, former leader of the Democratic Party, said during a meeting with other presidential hopefuls. "(We) also have confirmed that reasons are sufficient for her impeachment."
Ahn Cheol-soo, former co-chair of the People's Party, claimed that the National Assembly should push for Park's resignation and impeachment at the same time.
"The crux of this case is the fact that the president, who has to safeguard the Constitution, has destroyed the basic law," Ahn said.
The ruling Saenuri Party, meanwhile, said that it is premature to confirm the allegations of Park's complicity in the corruption case given that the president has yet to undergo a direct prosecutorial inquiry.
"We hope that the facts behind the scandal will clearly be verified through the ongoing prosecutorial probe, a planned independent counsel investigation and a parliamentary inquiry," Yeom Dong-yeol, party spokesman, told reporters.
Some ruling party members, who are not close to the president, called for an immediate process to push for Park's impeachment.
They also demanded that the party refer Park to its ethics panel to discuss whether to end Park's party membership.