Although South Korea’s embattled President Park Geun-hye once made a show of asking the national legislature to decide her fate, offering to leave office at whatever moment they decided, she became much less enthusiastic about the idea after they voted to impeach her.
On Tuesday, Park decided not to attend the beginning of her impeachment hearing. The BBC reports that after nine minutes of waiting for her to appear, the session was closed and postponed until Thursday.
Park will probably not be there Thursday either, as her lawyer declared she will not attend the proceedings “unless there are special circumstances.” Protocol dictates the hearings can proceed without her after the second time she fails to appear. President Park was suspended from her duties until the impeachment court of nine justices renders its decision, sometime in the next 180 days.
“The key issues under review are whether Park violated the people’s sovereignty and the rule of law, abused her power, infringed on the freedom of the press, neglected her duty to protect the right to life, and took part in bribery and other crimes,” reports the Korea Times.
“Lawmaker Kweon Seong-dong, the chief prosecutor in the trial, asked why Ms Park could not defend herself in court when two days ago she met with reporters at the presidential Blue House and rejected the accusations of corruption,” reports Australia’s ABC News.
The central figure in the scandal convulsing South Korean government is Park’s old friend and confident Choi Soon-sil, often described as a “cult leader” or “South Korea’s Rasputin,” who has been charged with extortion, embezzlement, and illegally manipulating government policy. Although she held no official government post, she has in essence been charged with using threats of government action to squeeze money out of big South Korean businesses and selling access to President Park’s administration.
Choi Soon-sil’s daughter Chung Yoo-ra was arrested in Denmark on Sunday, nominally for illegal entry to the country, although the South Korean government has asked Interpol to issue an alert on her.
20-year-old Chung is suspected of being the beneficiary of many of her mother’s actions, with access to millions of dollars stashed in overseas accounts. She is wanted in South Korea for obstruction of justice, as she has disregarded repeated summons to appear in court.
Also, as Chosun Media reports, she has “incensed many young people in Korea with her underhand preferential admission to Ewha Womans University, which was revoked earlier last month as the scandal engulfed the head of the prestigious school, who resigned in disgrace.”
Another allegation against Chung is that the Samsung corporation financed her equestrian career to curry favor with her mother and President Park. (Suspiciously, despite the company’s grandiose plans to sponsor a top-notch equestrian team, the “team” never included anyone except Chung and her coach.)
Samsung also paid $18 million to a consulting firm controlled by Choi Soon-sil. The Samsung allegations are one of the major reasons South Korean investigators want access to Chung.
Chung will reportedly be detained in Denmark until at least the end of January, while the South Korean government works on her extradition. There are concerns the extradition process could take years, but Chung has said she would return to South Korea voluntarily if she can retain custody of her two-year-old son.
“Mom did everything. I don’t know anything,” Chung told reporters after her court hearing in Denmark.