South Korea's presidential Blue House blocks search amid graft probe

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 02, 2017 7:58 PM

By Christine Kim and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's presidential Blue House blocked prosecutors from searching the offices of impeached President Park Geun-hye on Friday citing security reasons, an official said, amid a corruption scandal that has gripped the country for months.

The Blue House would provide documents instead, the official said.

"As the Blue House is a secure facility requiring confidentiality regarding military and other issues, we have not changed our stance that no raids can be executed within the premises," Blue House spokesman Kim Dong-jo told Reuters.

Park has been impeached by parliament on suspicion of having colluded with a long-time friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big business to donate to two foundations set up to back the president's policy initiatives.

Park is also accused of allowing Choi to exert inappropriate influence over state affairs.

Both Park and Choi have denied wrongdoing.

Television broadcaster YTN said the special prosecutor's office was also seeking to search the offices of the chief of staff at the Blue House, as well as those used by Park's bodyguard detail.

No raid has ever been successfully carried out on the Blue House.

Prosecutors were also searching the offices of the Korea Fair Trade Commission and the Financial Services Commission in their investigation of Samsung Group, whose leader, Jay Y. Lee, has been named a suspect in the scandal. He has denied wrongdoing.

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A Korea Fair Trade Commission spokesman confirmed that investigators were conducting a raid but did not comment on details. A spokeswoman for the FSC said prosecutors were making copies of documents and searching offices.

If Park's impeachment is upheld by the Constitutional Court, she will become the first democratically elected leader in South Korea to be removed from office.

(Additional reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie)