President Park Again a 'No Show' at Impeachment Trial
SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye was again absent from her impeachment trial Thursday as the Constitutional Court proceeded to review her case.
Park, whose presidential powers have been suspended pending a court decision, was asked to testify after she skipped the first formal hearing Tuesday. But the law does not require her attendance, and her lawyers have said she will likely remain absent from the proceedings.
Confirming her absence, the nine-member bench opened the session to the oral arguments of Park's lawyers and the National Assembly that impeached her on Dec. 9 over a corruption scandal linked to her confidante.'
Rep. Kwon Seong-dong, chairman of the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee, called on the justices to remove Park from office, saying her actions amounted to a violation of the Constitution and the law.
He especially cited allegations that the president gave confidential documents to Choi Soon-sil, her confidante, and extorted large sums of money from conglomerates with the aim of benefiting Choi.
"This amounts to abusing one's position to violate the people's basic rights and warrants losing one's authority to oversee state affairs," he said. "Dismissing the president is aimed not only at recovering the national loss and vacuum in the running of state affairs but at restoring the constitutional order."
Lee Joong-hwan, one of Park's attorneys, rebutted the accusations, citing a lack of evidence and even legal basis. He also denied that the president pressured Samsung to make large donations to the two culture and sports foundations in return for her backing of a merger between two Samsung affiliates.
"Ever since she was a presidential candidate, the president has taken a great interest in the culture and sports sectors with the sole purpose of promoting the two sectors," he said. "President Park didn't know that Choi was effectively in control of the foundations."
Park has insisted on her innocence, saying the allegations against her have been fabricated or not based on real facts but hearsay. She has also claimed that any possible wrongdoings were done without her knowledge. Choi too has contested the corruption charges leveled against her and denied any conspiracy between her and the president. State prosecutors have named Park an accomplice in Choi's indictment.
The court is scheduled to hear from four key witnesses later in the day, but their attendance remains unclear.
It has until early June to decide whether to unseat or reinstate Park.