Independent Counsel Starts Full-Fledged Investigation of President Park Scandal this Week

Independent Counsel Starts Full-Fledged Investigation of President Park Scandal this Week

SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- The independent probe team looking into an influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye said Sunday it will kick off full-fledged investigations starting this week.

The team's spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said it will hold a signboard hanging ceremony Wednesday but said the investigation can start at any time.

The independent counsel first received the certificate of appointment on Dec. 1. It is given a preparation period of 20 days when it can add investigators to the team and set up an office.

After the preparation period, the team will investigate deeper into the influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil for 70 days, which will end Feb. 28.

The duration, however, can be extended by 30 days upon request by the team and an approval from the president.

There are legal debates whether Park or Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn holds the authority over the extension. As the president may oppose the renewal, pundits said the team will focus on ending the investigation by the original deadline.

The team will especially focus on finding Park and Choi's role in the suspicious fundraising of two public organizations -- Mir and K-Sports -- which collected large donations from conglomerates.

It will also investigate personal benefits secured by Choi from the administration and conglomerates, including Samsung Group's donations given to Choi's daughter who is an equestrian.

Park's unknown whereabouts during the sinking of the ferry Sewol in 2014 that claimed more than 300 lives also will be checked by officials.

The team said it is also open to summoning business tycoons. Major heads of family-run conglomerates, including Samsung Group's heir-apparent Lee Jae-yong, were earlier summoned by the National Assembly for questioning in relation to donations they made to Mir and K-Sports.

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