S Korea prosecutor hints raiding presidential office

SEOUL: South Korea’s special prosecutor investigating a corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-Hye said on Sunday it was considering whether to raid the presidential offices and if it did so, it had no choice but to do so publicly.
Special prosecutors are investigating allegations that Park colluded with a friend, Choi Soon-Sil, and aides to pressure big companies to contribute to foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.
“In case of raiding the Blue House…to carry out that, there is no choice but to be make it public,” Lee Kyu-Chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor’s team told reporters in a briefing, referring to the presidential offices.
“We are still considering whether the raid is needed and if needed what the raid should be aimed at.” Park, whose father ruled the country for 18 years after seizing power in a 1961 coup, was indicted in a December 9 parliamentary vote. She has denied wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in her ties with Choi, who is facing her own trial.
Prosecutors have said previously they needed access to the presidential offices as part of their investigation.
The office has denied access. Park has immunity from prosecution as long as she is in office even though her powers have been suspended since parliament voted to impeach her. Massive demonstrations have been taking place in Seoul and other cities every Saturday for the past two months, with protesters calling for Park’s immediate departure from office. But Park, who has been suspended from her duties since the impeachment vote on December 9, has remained defiant, declaring she will “calmly” wait until the Constitutional Court, which is due to rule on the case within 180 days, arrives at a decision. The demonstration came as investigators were expanding a probe into the scandal to determine whether Park and Choi took bribes from conglomerates such as Samsung in addition to soliciting “donations” to the two foundations.
Samsung has been a main target of the investigation. It allegedly bribed Choi to win state approval for a controversial merger of two of its units in order to bolster its founding family’s control over the management. Prosecutors are also investigating new allegations that Choi sent dubious assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars overseas. — Agencies