President Park to Launch Publicity Campaign in February?

President Park to Launch Publicity Campaign in February?

SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye is expected to employ a two-track approach to handle an ongoing legal battle over her corruption charges and unfavorable public sentiment, her aides hinted Monday, as she fights against what she calls "preposterous" accusations.

   February will be a critical month for the beleaguered president as she is likely to undergo questioning by the independent counsel team with the Constitutional Court pressured to wrap up its impeachment trial by March.

   During the Lunar New Year's holiday, Park spent most of her time preparing to defend herself in the ongoing probe and trial, her aide said.

   "As far as (we) understand, the president read various documents, news reports and books as she prepared for the independent counsel probe and (the trial) at the Constitutional Court," the aide told Yonhap News Agency over the phone, declining to be named.

   The special probe team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, has reportedly been in talks with Park's legal representatives to arrange a date for questioning the president face to face. The team has said it would quiz her early next month.

   The president is also weighing the option of appearing at a court hearing to make her case in person, her aides said.

   Park was impeached on Dec. 9 over a corruption scandal involving her and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. She was subsequently suspended from exercising her presidential powers pending a court decision.

   The Constitutional Court has to determine whether to unseat or reinstate the president by early June. But last week, Park Han-chul, the outgoing chief of the nine-justice court, called for a verdict to be given by March 13 to ensure a fair trial.

   The chief justice's term ends on Jan. 31 with that of his fellow Justice Lee Jung-mi ending on March 13. This has raised questions over whether the court can rule in the absence of two justices. On the other hand, conservatives have taken issue with the chief justice's setting of a deadline on proceedings, especially when in their eyes none of the key members involved in the case admitted to any wrongdoing and no conclusive evidence has been produced incriminating the president.

   A ruling on the presidential impeachment requires the approval of six out of the nine justices.

   Meanwhile, Park appears to be mulling whether to employ a publicity campaign to make her case, as some observers presume public opinion could influence the Constitutional Court's ruling.

   "While focusing on the independent counsel's probe and the impeachment trial, (Park) can seek dialogue with the press if need be," an aide to the president told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.

   On New Year's Day, Park hosted a meeting with the press, repudiating all accusations against her. Her political foes have berated the suspended president for engaging in a publicity stunt.

   Last Wednesday, Park also appeared in an interview with a local journalist where she called her corruption allegations ""preposterous, colossal" lies.'

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