Choi Soon-sil Still Absent at Court Summons Due to 'Health Reasons'

Choi Soon-sil Still Absent at Court Summons Due to 'Health Reasons'

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's National Assembly started the second round of hearings to investigate a corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday, with her confidante Choi Soon-sil refusing to appear citing health issues.

The parliament has ordered Choi and other key witnesses who refused to comply with the summons appear in court. The order is issued to forcefully make a suspect or witness appear at a hearing when he or she refuses to attend without a justifiable reason.

Choi's family and close associates also told the panel they will not attend citing health reasons. The whereabouts of Choi's daughter Chung Yoo-ra and Woo Byung-woo, ex-senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, remain unknown.

During Wednesday's session, Park's former key aides, including an ex-chief of staff, will testify about suspicions that Choi and her associates meddled in government affairs.

Choi was arrested last month on charges of abuse of power, coercion and fraud. Prosecutors said Park was also an accomplice.

The focus of Wednesday's hearing is expected to be on Kim Ki-choon, former presidential chief of staff, who exerted immense influence in the Park administration.

On Tuesday, the parliamentary committee grilled the heads of eight conglomerates on their alleged connections to Choi. They were found to have donated to two nonprofit foundations controlled by Choi. She is suspected of embezzling money from them.

The business tycoons denied allegations that they were seeking favors in exchange for their contributions, claiming they could not turn down donation requests from the presidential office.

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