S. Korea prosecutors seek arrest of ex-President Park for corruption

By Jung Ha-won, AFP

SEOUL — South Korean prosecutors sought an arrest warrant on Monday for ousted president Park Geun-hye, days after questioning her over the corruption and abuse of power scandal that brought her down. Park, 65, had her removal from office confirmed by the country’s top court earlier this month, ending her executive immunity, and her prosecution has been a key demand of the millions of people who took to the streets to protest against her. The former president is accused of multiple offences including bribery, leaking government information and abuse of power in the scandal. “The accused abused her enormous power and status as president to receive bribes from companies or to infringe upon the rights to freedom of corporate management, and leaked important confidential information on state affairs. These are grave issues,” the prosecutors said in a statement. “A large amount of evidence has been collected so far but the accused is denying most of the charges, and there is a risk of destroying evidence in the future,” it said. Choi Soon-sil, Park’s secret confidante at the heart of the scandal, is already on trial for forcing top local firms to “donate” nearly US$70 million to nonprofit foundations which she allegedly used for personal gain. Prosecutors said it would be “counter to the principle of fairness” if Park was not arrested. The Seoul Central District Court will review their request on Thursday, they said.

If the warrant is approved, Park will become the third former leader to be arrested over corruption in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, where politics and big business have long been closely tied. Two former army-backed leaders who ruled in the 1980s and 1990s — Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo — both served jail terms for charges including bribery after they retired. Another ex-leader, Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide in 2009 by jumping off a cliff after he was questioned over graft allegations. Park was impeached by parliament in December, as the scandal combined with mounting economic and social frustrations to trigger huge candlelit demonstrations. The Constitutional Court later upheld the decision. Last week she underwent a marathon 21-hour interrogation session at the prosecutors’ office, having refused repeated requests to be interviewed while in power.