South Korean prosecutors have announced plans to summon former president Park Geun-hye as a criminal suspect following the confirmation of her legislative impeachment and dismissal from office.
“We will decide Wednesday when to summon former president Park and inform her,” said a spokesman for the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office on Tuesday, AFP reported.
The development came after the Constitutional Court, South Korea’s highest tribunal, stripped Park of immunity from criminal prosecution last week for her alleged involvement in a massive corruption scandal that has thrown the country into chaos.
The spokesman further noted that it has not yet been decided whether Park will be called in to the prosecutors’ office in private, or publicly before TV cameras and photographers.
Park is accused of offering policy favors to businessmen who contributed funds to organizations controlled by her friend and secret confidante Choi Soon-sil, including the heir to the electronics giant Samsung, Lee Jae-Yong, who has been indicted for bribery and other offences.
As president, Park refused to make herself available for questioning to special prosecutors probing the scandal, despite multiple requests.
This is while the Constitutional Court had also called on her to appear before it as it held a series of hearings while considering whether to confirm or overturn her impeachment by the parliament, but she refused to do so.
South Korean demonstrators shoot off firecrackers to celebrate the impeachment of Park Geun-hye during a candlelit rally demanding her arrest in Seoul on March 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Choi is also standing trial for using her ties to Park to force local firms to “donate” nearly $70 million to non-profit foundations she allegedly used for personal gains.
Park has been holed up in her high-walled house in southern Seoul, as hundreds of her loyal supporters staged protest sit-ins while vowing to “protect our president” from any harm.
Her supporters have earned a poor reputation with clashes breaking out at a number of their protest rallies. Following Friday’s court ruling, a protest action by thousands of pro-Park supporters was marred by violence, with some attacking riot police and assaulting journalists.
Meanwhile, more clashes are expected if prosecution officials attempt to force their way through the crowd surrounding Park’s residence to deliver the summons.
Three of the protestors, men in their 60s and 70s, died and dozens of people were wounded, including police and journalists, prompting police to announce plans to track down and punish those responsible.