Ousted S. Korean president apologizes before being questioned by prosecutors

Former South Korean president Park Geun Hye has apologised to the nation as she arrived at the prosecutor's office on Tuesday (March 21) for the first time to face a criminal probe over her involvement in a corruption and influence peddling scandal that brought her downfall.

Park, who ruled South Korea for more than four years, apologized to the public in brief remarks before entering the offices of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors, saying that she would take part "sincerely" in the investigation.

Park has been accused of colluding with her decades-long friend Choi Soon-sil, who is now in custody, to receive tens of millions of USA dollars in bribes from Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the heir apparent of Samsung Group who was also taken into custody.

"I'm sorry", Park told reporters at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office as she promised to cooperate with investigations.

As Park gets out of her vehicle and walks towards the prosecution's office, journalists will throw questions at her from behind the press line, which has been drawn to give Park about 20 meters' space from the army of reporters.

Park's impeachment, first rendered in December by South Korea's National Assembly, was upheld earlier this month by the country's constitutional court. "Former President Park Geun-hye's decision now to preserve the Jindo dogs" pedigree is raising fears that they might be subjected to continued breeding and be used as a commercial product bearing the "President Park's Jindo' premium", the statement said.

Ms Choi is accused of using her presidential connections to pressure companies to give millions of dollars in donations to non-profit foundations she controlled.

Park faces a series of charges including bribery, abuse of power and coercion.

Park is due to appear for questioning on Tuesday. Lee Jae Yong, the de facto leader of Samsung, has been detained and is now on trial on charges including bribery, embezzlement and perjury. Exiting the Blue House on March 12, she said, "Though it may take time, I believe the truth will eventually prevail".

Amid the online uproar, an animal rights group filed a complaint against Ms Park with the country's anti-corruption and civil rights body, accusing her of animal abandonment. Prosecutors say they have evidence that Park colluded with Choi in the scheme. "Park responded that she will faithfully undergo the questioning", said an official from the prosecution.

Park faced two prosecutors and an investigator, and was accompanied by one of her lawyers, but standard procedure bars him from interjecting, only allowing consultations during rest breaks - which could be an issue for her.

Ms Park had "concealed completely Choi's meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticised those who raised the suspicions", the ruling said.

She arrived at the prosecutor's office about seven minutes later.

  • Leroy Wright