Deny! Deny! Deny! Choi Soon-sil Denies All Charges in President Park Scandal
SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- The close friend of President Park Geun-hye who is at the center of an influence-peddling scandal that has led to the president's impeachment appeared at her first court hearing Monday and denied all charges raised.
Choi Soon-sil attended the first preparatory hearing held at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul. It was the first time she has appeared before the public since she was called in by prosecutors in late October.
"When I first came from Germany, I thought I should submit to any punishment," said Choi, who was indicted last month over a string of corruption allegations involving the president and aides.
"But since I arrived here, I have gone through a lot of interrogations," she said, without finishing the sentence.
When the presiding Judge Kim Se-yun asked whether she meant she denies all suspicions leveled against her, Choi said "yes."
Choi returned home on Oct. 30 after nearly two months in Europe, following criticism from the public to answer questions raised against her.
"Eight of the allegations raised by the prosecution are that she colluded with the president," Choi's lawyer Lee Kyung-jae said. "As she did not collude with the president, she cannot be found guilty of the charges made."
It is not mandatory for defendants to attend the preparatory procedures, which are meant for the prosecution and defense to discuss how the upcoming court hearings should proceed.
Lee told reporters in a text message earlier in the day she has "expressed her willingness to sincerely go through with the trial proceedings."
President Park's two former aides who were indicted with Choi did not attend the hearing.
Charges leveled against the three include abuse of authority, bullying local conglomerates to fork out large sums of money to create two nonprofit foundations run by Choi and leaking government documents.
The legal representative of An Chong-bum, former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, denied most of the allegations, saying he only followed directions given from Park.
The attorney of Jeong Ho-seong, former secretary for private presidential affairs, meanwhile, said Jeong admits to leaking government secrets to Choi.
The courtroom was filled with reporters and citizens from all ages who were eager to see the woman who has been making headlines for months.
"She is the person who shook the fundamentals of this country. Who wouldn't be curious to see how she looks and behaves?" chemistry researcher Kim Tae-hong, 37, who attended the hearing told Yonhap News Agency.
The court held a random draw to allocate spectator seats last week to avoid people lining up for hours if the seats were open on a first come, first served basis.
The Seoul court decided to hold another preparatory session as lawyers said they have not finished reviewing the documents. The next hearing is slated for Dec. 29.'
Opposition parties criticized Choi for denying all charges, adding all suspects, including the president, must be punished for breaking the law.
"Choi is busy blaming the president, while Park is saying everything is Choi's fault," Rep. Ki Dong-min, the spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, said.
"When Choi first appeared before the prosecutors' office, she said she even deserves to die. Now she is denying everything," a spokesman of the People's Party said. "She is showing utmost disrespect for the people."