By Kim Bo-eun
The trial for former President Park Geun-hye, who has been indicted on charges of receiving or asking for bribes amounting to 59.2 billion won ($52.1 million) from conglomerates, will begin May 2, earlier than projected.
Many projected that the process would not begin until after the presidential election scheduled for May 9, but prosecutors said the date was moved up given the gravity of the case and the need for swift proceedings. Another factor is that the suspect can only be detained for six months for the first trial.
People won't see Park in the courtroom on May 2, however. It will be a pretrial meeting among Park's lawyers -- Yoo Young-ha and Chae Myung-sung -- with prosecutors and judges to confirm the stances of the prosecution and defendant and discuss the trial procedure, including filing for witnesses.
Park faces 18 charges including bribery, abuse of power and mishandling classified state information. As Park has been denying all of the charges raised against her, the pre-hearing sessions are expected to be numerous.
The prosecutors said it would merge Park's case and those of her confidant Choi Soon-sil and her former aide An Chong-bum because they are all related. Choi and An were indicted on charges of abuse of power and extortion for their involvement in ordering conglomerates to donate funds to the Choi-controlled K-Sports and Mir foundations. Choi, who was earlier indicted on other charges, was additionally indicted as an accomplice of Park.
Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, who has been indicted without detention on charges of contributing 7 billion won in additional funds to the K-Sports Foundation after a private meeting with Park, will also be tried by the same panel.
Park is currently being held at the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province.
Yonhap News Agency reported Friday that Park is moving into a new house in Naegok-dong, southern Seoul, south of where her current house is, next week.
"The Samseong-dong house is too old and Park made many of her neighbors feel uncomfortable," the team of Park's secretaries said. "Also, she wants a quiet place now."
The news drew jeers on the internet. "Prison is her new home, isn't it?" one poster remarked. "Is she already getting ready to be pardoned?"