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Park faces imminent questioning by prosecutors in corruption scandal

All Headlines 10:37 November 13, 2016

SEOUL, Nov. 13 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye is likely to be questioned by prosecutors this weekend at the earliest about her role in an escalating corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving her confidante and longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and others, prosecution sources said Sunday.

The unprecedented questioning, if realized, will mark the first time in national history for an incumbent president to be questioned by prosecutors.

Prosecutors said they are considering opening an investigation into Park around Nov. 20 when the legal period of Choi's detention expires. Choi was formally put under arrest on Nov. 3 on charges of fraud and abuse of power.

Park faces imminent questioning by prosecutors in corruption scandal - 1

"The questioning of the president is most likely to take place later this week. But there is also a possibility of the questioning being delayed. In that case, it will be possible after the indictment of Choi," a Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office official said.

As for the place of questioning, the official said the most likely option is a third location, instead of the prosecutors' office or the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. However, Cheong Wa Dae has not been ruled out yet, he added.

The official made clear that sending a questionnaire to the president instead of face-to-face questioning may not be under consideration.

Park already agreed to be questioned by prosecutors in a news conference on Nov. 4.

This photo taken on Nov. 12, 2016, shows a massive rally in Seoul where more than 1 million people demanded President Park Geun-hye step down over an influence-peddling scandal involving her close confidante Choi Soon-sil. (Yonhap)

In the scandal, Choi allegedly leveraged her four decadelong relationship with Park to coerce local businesses, including Lotte Group and SK Group, into donating large sums to two dubious nonprofit foundations that she was suspected of using for personal gain. Even Samsung Electronics Co. is under investigation for its involvement in the scandal.

Despite two public apologies by the president since the scandal erupted last month, her approval rating plunged to a record-low 5 percent, according to local pollster Gallup Korea.

In the apologies, Park acknowledged that she allowed her guard to drop as Choi stood by her side during difficult times. She said the fallout from the scandal was "all my fault."

South Korea's Constitution does not allow a sitting president to be prosecuted, but some senior officials have suggested that questioning, as part of a broader investigation, is permissible.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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