Constitutional Court Wants Chronological Outline of President Park's 'Missing 7 Hours' During Sewol Ferry Sinking

Constitutional Court Wants Chronological Outline of President Park's 'Missing 7 Hours' During Sewol Ferry Sinking

SEOUL, Dec. 22 (Yonhap) -- The Constitutional Court on Thursday called on President Park Geun-hye to expound upon her alleged seven-hour absence during a 2014 ferry disaster at its first preparatory hearing on her impeachment case.

   The top court also proposed organizing the president's 13 charges cited in the parliamentary impeachment motion into five categories as part of efforts to accelerate the deliberation process, which could last up to six months.

   At the hearing, the court, the National Assembly impeachment panel and the president's attorneys discussed how to carry out the upcoming court review sessions. The next preparatory meeting was set for next Tuesday.

   Participants in the 40-minute hearing included Kweon Seong-dong, the chairman of the parliamentary judicial committee, eight legal representatives for the Assembly and seven attorneys defending the president.

   Touching on the charges of her inaction during the sinking of the ferry that killed more than 300 people, the court demanded Park's attorneys fully explain what she did in chronological order "without leaving anything unexplained."

   Despite the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae's repeated denials, rumors have persisted that she had cosmetic surgery or other treatment during the critical time, while failing to carry out official duties.

   "Most citizens remember what they did on that tragic day as it is a day that carries a crucial meaning," Lee Jin-sung, one of the three judges in charge of the preparatory session, said during the hearing. "Having said this, (the president) will also have a special memory (of the sinking)."

   Lee Joong-hwan, Park's legal representative, told reporters that he would request related documents from the presidential secretariat and submit them to explain the allegations about the seven missing hours.

   As for the categorization of her charges, the court divided them into five types -- violation of the constitutional principles of popular sovereignty and rule of law, abuse of authority, infringement on press freedom, breach of the right to life and criminal offenses.

   During the hearing, the court adopted a list of witnesses, including Park's former aides such as An Chong-bum, former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment.

   The court also accepted Park's attorneys' request to stop the parliamentary impeachment panel from disclosing to the public Park's statement that was submitted to the court for the impeachment trial.

   It, however, dismissed their appeal to ohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwZta7ZjLe8&t=27sverturn the court's request to review investigation records from state prosecutors and an independent counsel. Park's attorneys had argued that it was illegal to request documents related to an ongoing probe.'

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