Prosecutors Plan to Summon Former President Park... She Vows to 'Actively' Cooperate
SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- Ousted President Park Geun-hye will "actively" cooperate with the prosecution's ongoing probe into her corruption scandal, her attorney said Tuesday, hours after investigators announced their plan to summon her for questioning this week.
Son Bum-kyu, Park's attorney, made the remarks, raising speculation that she could accept the request this time for the face-to-face questioning, which she rejected last year based on the presidential immunity from criminal prosecution.
Park is suspected of having colluded with her friend Choi Soon-sil to extort money from Samsung Group and other conglomerates. The scandal led to her impeachment by parliament in December and the Constitutional Court's subsequent decision to permanently remove her from office last week.
Earlier in the day, a special prosecutors team probing Park's scandal said that it will decide on Wednesday when to summon Park and inform her.
"We will let you know once we are prepared," an official of the team told reporters.'
Park faces 13 criminal charges, including bribery and abuse of power.
The official said the team will decide on the date after considering its review of investigation records transferred from an independent counsel who looked into the scandal for 70 days until the end of February, and after drawing up a list of questions for the former president.
It will then inform Park of when she should appear for questioning, the official said, dismissing questions about whether the two sides have discussed a mutually convenient date.
"We will decide on the method as well," he said.
Independent Counsel Park Young-soo concluded at the end of his investigation that Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong paid or promised some 43 billion won (US$37.4 million) to Choi, and in effect to Park, in exchange for business favors.
Park, the first South Korean leader to be ousted, has denied all the charges against her.
In case she fails to appear, the official said, it's difficult to say at this stage what steps the prosecutors will take.
Park was requested to face questioning as a suspect in earlier investigations by state prosecutors soon after the scandal emerged in October, and by the independent counsel later. She refused both requests.
By law, suspects can be taken in by force with a court warrant if they ignore a summons without a legitimate reason.
Park's ouster has triggered an early presidential election, which many expect to take place May 9.
"It looks like the prosecution took various factors into consideration in deciding on the investigation timetable, including the political situation surrounding the election and its plans for future investigations," said an official working in the legal circle.
The team plans to look into whether other local conglomerates, including SK, Lotte and CJ, also bribed Park.
On Monday, Rep. Kim Jin-tae of Park's Korea Liberty Korea argued that the prosecution should postpone its investigation into the former president until after the election.
The probe will proceed without consideration of the election, the official with the team said.
Park returned to her private home in southern Seoul on Sunday.