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(LEAD) Presidential office dismisses speculation Park could boycott questioning

All Headlines 16:43 February 09, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with probe team's reaction in paras 7-8)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday said President Park Geun-hye would undergo direct questioning soon "when trust is restored with special prosecutors," dismissing speculation that she would boycott the corruption probe.

The remarks came a day after Cheong Wa Dae lashed out at special prosecutors investigating the high-profile scandal involving the president and her friend, for leaking the schedule for the face-to-face questioning of the president.

Local media outlets reported earlier this week that Cheong Wa Dae and the probe team had agreed to hold the interview at the presidential compound Thursday.

"Our stance is that the president will undergo (the questioning) as soon as possible when trust is restored with special prosecutors," an aide to Park told Yonhap News Agency over the phone, declining to be named.

"(The presidential office) and special prosecutors are still coordinating (details) with regards to the issue of the questioning, meaning it is wrong to speculate that (Park) is poised to reject the direct inquiry," he added.

The probe team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, has denied it leaked the questioning schedule.

During a regular press briefing, the team's spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said there is no reason for its investigators to leak the information. Lee said the team has been complying with its agreement with the presidential office to keep when, where and how they carry out the inquiry under wraps until it is completed, considering that it will be the first questioning of the country's incumbent president in a criminal case.

Observers say that the questioning could take place sometime next week given that the independent counsel has been accelerating the probe with his initial probe mandate due to expire on Feb. 28. The investigation can be extended once by a month with consent from Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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