Special Prosecutors Hear Choi Soon-sil's Side of the Story Today

Special Prosecutors Hear Choi Soon-sil's Side of the Story Today

SEOUL, Dec. 24 (Yonhap) -- A longtime friend of President Park Geun-hye appeared before special prosecutors on Saturday to face a probe into her alleged involvement in influence peddling and corruption.

   Choi Soon-sil, who has been in custody since late October, allegedly exerted influence for personal benefit, using her ties to the president. Over the scandal, the National Assembly voted to impeach the president, immediately suspending her from all powers.

   The 60-year-old confidante to the president arrived at the office of the special prosecutors in southern Seoul at around 2 p.m. She will be investigated as a suspect by the prosecutors, who launched their official work on Wednesday.

   "This is aimed at confirming Choi's side of the story with regard to suspicions and allegations that have been revealed so far," an official of the special team said.

   She didn't answer questions by reporters seeking remarks.

   Her trip to the special prosecutors' office followed Kim Chong, a former vice culture minister who was brought in early in the day as part of the investigation into the scandal. Kim is suspected of having aided Choi in pressuring large conglomerates to donate nearly 80 billion won (US$66.5 million) to two foundations.'

  In her first court appearance on Monday, Choi denied major charges.

   Choi, a civilian with no security clearance, is reported to have maintained close personal ties with President Park for around 40 years and suspected of having been involved in state affairs and in diverse influence-peddling cases.

   The president is also suspected of conspiring with Choi. Allegations surrounding Park and Choi led to massive candlelight vigils across the country and eventually prompted the National Assembly to impeach the president on Dec. 9.

   Now, the final decision lies with the Constitutional Court which will have up to six months to deliberate whether to oust the president.

   Earlier, the justice ministry said that it has submitted its views on the recent parliamentary vote for the impeachment to the court, adding that the process has met all the necessary legal requirements.

   In its views submitted to the court on Friday, the ministry said that the impeachment process ranging from the vote to relevant document filing met all legal requirements. It also mentioned core issues, related theories and similar cases in the U.S. and Germany.

   "As a ministry in charge of legal affairs, we provided legal opinions, core issues and procedures related to the impeachment from an objective viewpoint in a way that they can help the court's deliberation and decision," the ministry said.

   The ministry, however, did not include its opinions on allegations involving the president.

   The move was in response to the court's request seeking advice. In the impeachment of late president Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, the ministry also offered its opinions on the case to the court.

   At the time, the ministry argued against the impeachment, saying that its process and cited reasons cannot be accepted. The court later rejected the parliament's push to force Roh to step down.

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