[THE INVESTOR] A day before the questioning of former President Park Geun-hye, the public prosecutors’ office was in full swing on March 20 to prepare for the high-profile event.
Security has been tightened around the office, media companies have put camera ladders and yellow tape has been placed on the ground to mark the route Park will walk to the probe room.
Expelled from power on March 10 over a corruption scandal, the former leader will be read her Miranda rights before being questioned just like any ordinary criminal suspect. She faces a total of 13 charges, including bribery, abuse of authority and leak of government secrets.
The Korea Herald gives you a glimpse into what Park will go through March 21, becoming the fourth ex-president in the country to face a criminal investigation.
Q. Walk me through Park’s day, from what’s known so far.
Park is expected to arrive at the main gate of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho-dong shortly before 9:30 a.m., after a 15-minute ride by car from her private residence in Samseong-dong.
She will be escorted by security guards, provided by the Blue House, and her lawyers.
As Park gets out of her car and walks towards the prosecution’s office, journalists will throw questions at her from behind the press line, which has been drawn to give Park about 20 meters’ space from the army of reporters.
For security reasons, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has already granted exclusive access to the scene to some 100 local and foreign journalists and camera crew.
Before heading to the interrogation room, Park will have a short meeting over tea with ranking officials from the special probe team on the 13th floor.
In the previous cases of former President Roh Tae-woo and Roh Moo-hyun, who were investigated in 1995 and 2009 respectively, the tea meetings lasted for 10-15 minutes.
Park will likely be grilled by investigators in the investigation room on the 10th floor, equipped with video and audio recording facilities.
Q. Will she make any statement to the public?
Park’s lawyer Sohn Beom-kyu said on March 20 that Park will make comments herself before entering the office.
“She will make a statement. She has prepared a message. I don’t know what she will say,” he said.
The last message from Park after moving out of the presidential residence was: “The truth will come out someday.” Coming two days after the court ruled to uphold the parliamentary impeachment of her, it was widely taken as a hint at her unwillingness to concede.
Ex-presidents who faced a grilling also made short comments. Roh Tae-woo said “I am sorry to the public” and Roh Moo-hyun said “This is shameful.”
Q. Who will question Park?
The prosecution will allegedly assign senior prosecutors under the special probe team – Han Woong-jae and Lee Won-seok.
They were part of the special probe team which investigated the corruption scandal involving Park, Choi Soon-sil and local conglomerates until the probe was handed over to an independent counsel Park Young-soo in December.
Han is set to grill Park over her alleged bribery charge and extortion of donations from local firms for the Mir and K-Sports foundations – the entities Choi controlled for personal gains.
Lee is set to question Park over suspicions that Samsung Group sponsored Choi’s daughter Chung Yoo-ra for equestrian training abroad and gave donations to a Winter Sports Center under the influence of Choi’s niece Jang Si-ho.
Q. How long will the questioning last?
Given that Park faces more complicated charges than previous presidents, the prosecution is expected to ask hundreds of questions and the questioning is likely to last past midnight.
Ex-presidents Roh Tae-woo and Roh Moo-hyun were grilled for 17 hours and 13 hours, respectively. Both of them were questioned over allegations that they received illicit political funds from businesses.
Q. What are Park’s charges?
Park faces eight charges filed by the prosecution and five charges including bribery additionally filed by the independent counsel.
She is suspected of receiving bribes from Samsung Group in return for political favors, creating a blacklist of liberal artists to discriminate against them and leaking government secrets to Choi.
Park has denied all the charges, claiming no knowledge of Choi and her inner circle’s wrongdoings.
Her friend Choi and others, including ex-presidential secretaries and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, have been arrested and are standing trial in connection with the corruption scandal.
By Ock Hyun-ju/The Korea Herald (email@example.com)