S Korea prosecutors expect to question impeached leader soon

AP News
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Posted: Feb 07, 2017 2:32 AM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean prosecutors said Tuesday they expect to interview President Park Geun-hye this week over her alleged involvement in a political scandal that toppled her from power.

Park was impeached by the opposition-controlled parliament in December over allegations that she let her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil interfere in state affairs and extort money from businesses in collaboration with presidential officials.

Park, who has immunity from prosecution while in office, has said she's willing to undergo questioning.

Prosecution spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said Tuesday that Park's questioning is expected to take place "around Feb. 10." He did not elaborate.

Prosecutors have tried to search Park's presidential compound twice, but her aides rejected the requests, citing a law that can block searches in areas with official secrets.

The Constitutional Court is deliberating about whether to formally unseat her and trigger an election to choose her successor.

On Tuesday, four former top government officials were indicted for allegedly blacklisting thousands of artists critical of the government. The four include former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun, who became the first incumbent Cabinet member of the Park government to be arrested over the allegation. She resigned after her arrest.

The ex-top officials allegedly pressured culture-related organizations to exclude blacklisted artists from state funding programs, Lee said. They face charges such as abuse of power and coercion, he said.

Three other senior officials including another former culture minister have already been indicted over the blacklist allegation, which surfaced as authorities were expanding their probe into the political scandal.

Park's confidante, Choi, and several of Park's former advisers have been jailed and face criminal trials.