Ex-President has speech to give before questioning
Former President Park Geun-hye
By Jung Min-ho
Former President Park Geun-hye will give a speech today before being questioned as a key suspect in the corruption scandal that led to her impeachment.
Her lawyer Son Bum-kyu told reporters Monday that Park will clarify her position about the scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil at around 9:30 a.m. before entering the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office for questioning.
But the lawyer said he did not know the details of the speech.
Given that prosecutors have already collected "plenty of evidence" about her complicity in the scandal, they may detain her without a warrant following questioning before formally arresting her.
This is a very likely scenario because most other key figures in the scandal have already been indicted, including Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-young who is charged with giving bribes to Park and Choi.
Prosecutors have completed a questionnaire, which is known to be about 100 pages long.
Among many allegations brought against her, prosecutors will likely focus on the money she apparently received from major companies.
She is suspected of colluding with Choi in receiving 43.3 billion won ($39 million) from Samsung through various channels in return for supporting a merger of two Samsung units in 2015 — a crucial decision for Lee to tighten his control on the group's management.
Bribery is the most serious charge against Park, which could put her behind bars for life.
Over the past week, investigators have been trying to build a stronger case against the former president. SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and senior company executives were questioned over similar allegations Saturday.
Park will be questioned with her lawyers present, but she has to answer questions on her own as they cannot interfere too much during the interrogation.
A team of nine lawyers have helped her over possible questions over the past week. The questioning is expected to take over 10 hours based on past records.
In 2009, former President Roh Moo-hyun was questioned by prosecutors for 13 hours over bribery allegations alone. In 1995, former President Roh Tae-woo was grilled for 17 hours over his role in the 1979 military coup and other allegations.
During the first investigation in November, prosecutors accused Park of eight alleged crimes, including sharing state secrets with an unauthorized person (Choi); while later the independent counsel leveled five more.
The former president refused to be questioned by prosecutors or testify at the Constitutional Court by taking advantage of her presidential immunity from prosecution. After her ouster earlier this month, she called her impeachment politically motivated and remained defiant, saying "the truth will be revealed in the end."
Partly because of her attitude, few seem to be sympathetic with Park. According to a survey conducted from March 17 to 18 by Research Plus, 68.8 percent said prosecutors have to question her thoroughly and detain her immediately if possible, while only 8 percent opposed questioning her.
In cooperation with police, the prosecution is stepping up security nearby its office. About 2,000 officers will be deployed there in case of an emergency.
Both supporters and critics of Park plan to hold rallies ahead of the questioning.