The state prosecution’s investigation of detained former President Park Geun-hye is in its final stretch, with prosecutors expected to indict her soon.
Her indictment will end the first stage of the high-profile corruption scandal that has battered the nation since last October. The impending action against Park will be preceded by the indictment of one of her closest former aides, Woo Byung-woo, who is accused of abusing his power and aiding and abetting Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil in meddling in state affairs and seeking personal gains.
Woo, who held the powerful post of senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, is the last key figure in the scandal who has yet to be indicted.
The prosecution cannot avoid criticism that it has not properly dealt with Woo, a former senior prosecutor who used his close ties with Park to exert influence on the prosecution and other law enforcement authorities.
The state prosecution first investigated Woo last November, but did not charge him. The team of independent counsel Park Young-soo took over the probe and sought to detain him in February, but Woo again was allowed to remain evasive.
Under mounting public pressure, the state prosecution reopened the investigation, summoning Woo last Thursday. Prosecutors asked the court to issue a detention warrant, and his fate, after a judge’s arraignment, was to be decided early Wednesday morning.
Woo is suspected of having conducted selective audit and inspection activities to help projects undertaken by Park and Choi, and interfered with personnel decisions at government offices such as the Culture and Sports Ministry as well as the Foreign Ministry.
Woo is also suspected of thwarting an investigation into Choi by former Inspector General Lee Seok-soo. In other words, the man who could and should have prevented such a scandal -- Woo’s duties included monitoring people close to the president and making sure they do not commit any misdeeds -- did exactly the opposite.
Bringing Woo to justice is important partly because Park still denies most of the charges raised against her.
Park said “the truth will come to light without fail” after the Constitutional Court upheld her parliamentary impeachment and removed her from office. She maintained the same stance during interrogation by prosecutors.
Since she was put into a detention center south of Seoul, Park has been undergoing questioning by prosecutors and she is said to have remained as defiant as ever.
Park’s decision to sack seven of her nine lawyers was also seen as a move to rebuild her defense team in order to strengthen her legal fight.
News reports indicated that Park wanted to get former judges as her attorneys, in preparation for trials. There were also reports that Park’s brother, Park Ji-man, wanted to replace her attorneys due to dissatisfaction with their performance in dealing with the Constitutional Court and prosecutors.
More troubling are the moves of some politicians and hardcore supporters of Park. One prominent case is the revival of the Saenuri Party, the former ruling party.
The original party changed its name to the Liberty Korea Party in the heat of the scandal. But some politicians and dedicated supporters of Park have established a new rightist party and adopted Saenuri as its name. Rep. Cho Won-jin, a lawmaker close to Park, bolted from the Liberty Korea Party and joined the new party. He even hinted at running in the May 9 election.
The latest developments only show that Park and her cronies are still under the delusion that what they do and say can resonate with the public and that they can recover their political clout. They must be dreaming.