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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Feb. 6)

All News 07:10 February 06, 2017

Questioning of Park
President should give truthful account of her part in scandal

The special prosecutor's team investigating the massive scandal centering on President Park Geun-hye failed to search Cheong Wa Dae last week. Independent counsel Park Young-soo and his team obtained a warrant from the Seoul Central District Court and began their attempt to search Cheong Wa Dae at 10:00 a.m., but they had to leave after a five-hour standoff with security officials.

Citing security concerns, the presidential office denied entry to investigators who were aiming to get more data prior to a planned face-to-face questioning of the President. The presidential office said that the raid could harm the national interest, but such an explanation is not convincing because the probe team minimized the location and subject of the execution of the search warrant. Clearly, it is a grave infringement of judicial power to hamper with the execution of the warrant, which was issued after a sufficient review of relevant laws regarding the search and seizure of evidence at Cheong Wa Dae.

Since the warrant is valid until the end of this month, the team will make additional attempts to search the premises, and will ask for acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn's cooperation by sending an official letter. It remains to be seen what kind of decision Hwang will make.

The independent counsel team should have been more prepared before attempting a search of Cheong Wa Dae, which had also blocked entry to state prosecutors in October. Both sides should reach a reasonable conclusion on how to move the investigation along while ensuring that there are no leaks of classified information.

Cheong Wa Dae's repeated disruption of the investigations has fueled public rage and gives a strong impression that the President is trying to hide evidence of wrongdoing. She previously refused to be questioned by state prosecutors. The President has also been hit for trying to delay the impeachment trial in the Constitutional Court and making one-sided claims of her innocence through the media.

The team and presidential office are consulting over a date for face-to-face questioning of the President, which is likely to be sometime this week. If confirmed, it will be the highlight of the independent counsel's investigation. But given that Park has consistently denied all allegations against her on several occasions, the outcome of such an interrogation is questionable in getting to the bottom of the presidential scandal.

During an interview with a podcast program, she said she will comply with the independent counsel's request for questioning. Park should remember that her uncooperative stance toward the independent counsel will aggravate public opinion. The President should keep her word by being questioned by the special prosecutors and give a full account of her role in the influence-peddling and corruption scandal that led to her impeachment.

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