Park apologises, vows to undergo questioning 'faithfully'

Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye has apologised as she arrived at a prosecutor's office in Seoul for questioning over to a corruption scandal that has engulfed the country in recent months and already cost her the presidency.

Park arrived at a prosecutors' office for questioning on Tuesday over allegations she colluded with a longtime confidante to extort money from businesses.

"I will sincerely go through the investigation", she said amid a barrage of camera flashes.

A special investigation team headed by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office chief Lee Young-ryeol is now investigating allegations involving Park, her inner circle and large business groups.

Prosecutors have previously accused Park of extortion, bribery and abuse of power, which could theoretically carry penalties of up to life imprisonment. After the March 10 Constitutional Court ruling, Park supporters clashed with police, leaving three dead.

Prosecutors are expected to hold Ms Park for a marathon questioning session that will last till late in the night.

The KCNA said in a commentary that "Park should be jailed for hundreds of times for her crimes so far disclosed".

South Korea's ousted leader Park Geun-hye arrives at a prosecutor's office in Seoul, South Korea Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Security forces have been deployed to prevent any untoward incident.

North Korea's state media earlier called Park's family a "dirty group of traitors", saying that rallies staged by Park's supporters will only speed up her downfall. Currently, Moon Jae-in, a liberal opposition leader who lost the 2012 election to Park, now has a commanding lead in opinion surveys.

Geun-hye will be the fourth South Korean former president to be questioned by prosecutors.

Meanwhile, senior executives and employees at SK Group and Lotte Group had been summoned in the past week for bribery allegations that the country's third- and fifth-largest conglomerates donated millions of US dollars to the Choi-controlled foundations in return for business favors and a presidential pardon.

Park's supporters and opponents have held protests in Seoul for months but police have managed to keep them apart and no serious violence has broken out between them.

At the heart of the drama lies the close friendship between Ms Park and Ms Choi.

Park's lawyer Sohn said Monday that she would issue a statement before entering the prosecution, fueling speculation that she would issue a lengthy message to express her position. Roh Tae-woo was grilled on charges of creating massive slush funds during his term in November 1995, Chun Doo Hwan was questioned for mutiny and treason in December 1995 and Roh Moo-hyun was questioned in April 2009 over bribery allegations. She answered questions calmly and never invoked her right to refuse to answer questions that could incriminate her, he added.

Why did Park lose her job? Park and Choi have both denied wrongdoing.

The Liberty Korea Party, a conservative party that Park is still a member of, defended her, asking prosecutors to show the former president respect.

  • Leroy Wright