South Korea's ousted leader Park grilled for 14 hours in graft probe

Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:52am EDT
 
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By Cynthia Kim and Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye apologized to the country on Tuesday as she appeared at prosecutors' offices for questioning as a criminal suspect in a corruption scandal that has gripped the country for months.

Park, 65, became South Korea's first democratically elected president to be removed from office when the Constitutional Court this month upheld her impeachment by parliament in December.

She has been accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations that backed her policy initiatives. Park and Choi have both denied wrongdoing.

"I am sorry to the people. I will faithfully cooperate with questioning," Park said in front of media at the steps of the prosecutors' office building, her first comments directly to the public since she was dismissed.

The questioning ended 14 hours later, just before midnight, according to Sohn Bum-kyu, one of Park's lawyers. Park is expected to head home after reviewing her statements made to the investigators early on Wednesday.

Park has not been charged but could face more than 10 years in jail if convicted of receiving bribes from bosses of big conglomerates, including Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee, in return for favors.

After about five hours of questioning, an official from the prosecutors' office told reporters Park had been forthcoming but he declined to elaborate on what she had been asked, on her responses or on what charges she might face.

Park's fate and the widening corruption investigation have gripped the country at a time of rising tension with North Korea and China.   Continued...

 
South Korea's ousted leader Park Geun-hye arrives at a prosecutor's office in Seoul, South Korea, March 21, 2017.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji