South Korea President Park Geun-hye retains lawyer before questioning by prosecutors

Park's presidency has been rocked by allegations that a personal friend used her ties to meddle in state affairs and wield improper influence.

By: Reuters | Seoul | Published:November 15, 2016 8:16 am
Protesters march toward presidential house after a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File) Protesters march toward presidential house after a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has retained a lawyer ahead of being questioned by prosecutors investigating a political scandal engulfing her presidency, her office said on Tuesday. She will be the first sitting president to be questioned by prosecutors over a criminal case. Park’s presidency has been rocked by allegations that a personal friend used her ties to meddle in state affairs and wield improper influence.

Her approval rating remained at all-time low for a second week. Hundreds of thousands marched in the capital, Seoul, on Saturday demanding that Park resign.
Park’s lawyer, Yoo Yeong-ha, is a former member of the government’s National Human Rights Commission. Yoo will discuss with prosecutors arrangements for their questioning of the president, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Park exerted improper pressure on “chaebol” conglomerate bosses to raise funds for foundations involving Park’s friend, the Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday. They are also investigating Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, who is alleged to have used her ties to the president to meddle in state affairs, a prosecutor has previously said.

In the middle of the deepening political crisis, the leader of the main opposition party proposed talks with Park on Monday but later cancelled the offer due to strong party opposition as well as from other lawmakers. Another apology by Park and an offer to work with opposition to form a new cabinet and relinquish some of her powers failed to quell the crisis, prompting opponents to say she did not grasp its severity.

Park said earlier this month prosecutors should clarify what happened and that everyone involved should be held accountable, including herself, and take responsibility if found guilty.