Lawmakers Investigating 'Choi Soon-sil Gate' Denied Entry to Blue House
SEOUL, Dec. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential office on Friday rejected lawmakers' inspection of its visitor entry logs which may hold a clue for their probe into President Park Geun-hye's alleged inaction during a deadly ferry disaster in 2014.
The lawmakers visited the presidential office to look deeper into the relationships between Park and a number of figures involved in a snowballing corruption scandal which threatens to end her presidency. But Cheong Wa Dae officials denied entry, citing security reasons.
"As the security office aggressively refused to respond to the investigation, the visit was in vain," said Rep. Kim Sung-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party. "The security office said it would consider providing limited access to documents."
Kim, the chairman of a special committee for inquiry into the scandal, and other members intended to examine the logs since April 16, 2014, when the ferry Sewol sank, claiming more than 300 lives.'
Park's whereabouts during the sinking remain unknown, which led to various speculations on the so-called "missing seven hours."
"The presidential office is one of the top security facilities," a security team official said before their visit. "No investigation has ever been conducted here." Cheong Wa Dae also cited the criminal law that bans investigations into such facilities without approval.
The security office, meanwhile, claimed that special guests such as Park's confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the scandal, did not go through the security procedures, adding the team has nothing to do with the matter in question.
Besides Choi, the committee assumes commercial film director Cha Eun-taek, who swayed the cultural sector by leveraging his connection with Choi, and other doctors to be some of the so-called "confidential guests."
Earlier in the day, the committee visited a clinic run by Kim Young-jae, who provided medical services to Park at the presidential office. Allegations have been raised that Park also met the doctor at the clinic under an assumed name, and that Kim provided the president with skin care treatments.
Kim said his visits to the presidential office, presumed to have happened on five separate occasions, were only intended to give consultations, not treatments. The president is also worried about a scar on her face, Kim added.
Park was attacked with a knife in 2006, which left an 11-centimeter-long wound on the right side of her face.
Later on Friday, investigators of an independent probe looking into the scandal visited the clinic to check some facts, its spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said.
"Four investigators were dispatched, as one of the lawmakers requested us to check out some records, saying there seemed to be dubious areas in the medical records," an official at the team told Yonhap News Agency.
The probe centered on identifying the person behind the name "Choi Bo-jung" on medical records at the clinic. The patient who used the name had the same birthday as the president and the same birth year as Choi.
The clinic said Park has never visited the clinic and that the name was used by Park's longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who was arrested on charges of abuse of power, coercion and fraud. Prosecutors claim Park was an accomplice in her crimes.
An official from the clinic said Choi spent more than 80 million won (US$67,538) there since October 2013.
Speculations about Park's ties with Kim were fanned by the recent revelation that Kim's wife, who heads Y. Jacobs Medical, a medical instrument firm, also unofficially accompanied the president during her visit to the Middle East in March.
The parliamentary panel has been hosting a series of hearings at the National Assembly since last week, summoning key figures linked to the scandal, ranging from former presidential staff members to business tycoons.
On Thursday, it will hold the fifth round of inquiries with 18 figures, including former presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo, who had been dodging the summons request. The committee said it will seek to investigate the presidential office again after the questioning.