South Korean prosecutors have summoned ousted president Park Geun-hye for questioning over her role in the corruption scandal that has led to her ouster.
The development was announced on Wednesday by a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office in Seoul. He added that Park, who was dismissed by the Constitutional Court last Friday, would be required to appear before state prosecutors next Tuesday as a criminal suspect in the scandal.
Park, who had already been impeached by the parliament late last year, had repeatedly refused to be questioned by the prosecutors, citing her constitutional impunity as sitting president. But, with the confirmation of the parliamentary vote by the country’s highest court, she is now susceptible to prosecution and even potential imprisonment.
The final ruling to oust Park was issued by the Constitutional Court on Friday.
A supporter of South Korea’s ousted president Park Geun-hye cries during a rally in Seoul, March 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Park’s lawyer said on Wednesday that she would “cooperate” with the prosecutors in the probe. The lawyer had previously compared her impeachment to the “crucifixion of Jesus Christ” and questioned the fairness of what he called a “kangaroo court.”
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Public Administration Ministry announced on Wednesday that the presidential election to pick Park’s successor would be held on May 9.
The scandal has left Park’s conservative party in tatters while promoting the popularity of liberal opposition parties. The conservative party has changed its name in the wake of the scandal.
Currently, the former head of the main opposition Democratic Party, Moon Jae-in, holds a commanding lead in nationwide opinion polls.
South Korea’s presidential candidate Moon Jae-in, from the Democratic Party, speaks during a press conference in Seoul, March 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Park would be a fourth South Korean ex-leader to be prosecuted for involvement in corruption scandals. Two former army-backed leaders, who ruled in the 1980s and the early 1990s, served jail terms for bribery after they retired.
Another ex-president, Roh Moo-Hyun, killed himself by jumping off a cliff in 2009 after being questioned by prosecutors for suspected bribery.
The current influence-peddling scandal centered around Park’s close confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is on trial for abuse of power and coercion. Choi stands accused of having used her presidential ties to force local firms, including Samsung, to “donate” nearly 70 million dollars to non-profit foundations she allegedly used for personal gain.