South Korea acting president declines to extend special prosecution probe

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 26, 2017 7:30 PM

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn will not extend the current special prosecutor's investigation into a graft scandal involving President Park Geun-hye beyond the Feb. 28 deadline, Hwang's office said on Monday.

Hwang spokesman Hong Kwon-heui told reporters during a televised briefing that the special prosecution probe has served its purpose and it is in the country's best interest for the investigation to conclude as scheduled.

"After much deliberation the acting president has decided that it would be best for the country's stability to not extend the special investigation and for the prosecutors to take over," Hong said.

The special prosecutor's office will hold a briefing at 1030 local time (0130 GMT) to comment on the decision not to extend the probe.

The corruption scandal erupted late last year over accusations that Park colluded with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back the president’s policy initiatives.

Park, 65, was impeached by parliament in December and she has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the impeachment.

The daughter of a former military ruler, Park has denied wrongdoing, as has Choi.

The special prosecution team has indicted or arrested several members of the political and business elite linked to the corruption scandal, including Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] leader Jay Y. Lee.

Should the court uphold parliament's impeachment of Park, the country will hold an election within 60 days of that ruling.

The president's office noted concerns that the special investigation probe could affect the outcome of any early presidential election.

(Reporting by Se Young Lee and Christine Kim; Editing by Michael Perry)