Published: Fri, March 31, 2017
World News | By Cecilia Wilkerson

S Korea's Park questioned at court hearing on arrest request


Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye has made a decision to attend a questioning session by a Seoul court before it determines whether she should be arrested over corruption allegations, prosecutors said Tuesday.

A South Korean court began deliberating on Thursday whether to arrest ousted president Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office in a corruption scandal involving charges she solicited bribes from the country's largest conglomerate.

It's unclear how Park's arrest may affect voter sentiment before an election to replace her on May 9.

A convoy of vehicles, including a black sedan carrying Park, entered a detention facility near Seoul after the Seoul Central District Court granted prosecutors' request to arrest her.

Ahead of the hearing, prosecutors submitted around 120,000 pages of documents to the Seoul Central District Court in relation to the charges against Park, and said it would be "counter to the principle of fairness" if she was not arrested.

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The YTN television network says her vehicle is heading to a detention facility near Seoul. It broke open the scandal in the fall, which led quickly to Park's fall.

The Seoul court said it chose to approve Park's arrest because of worries that Park may try to destroy evidence.

About 80 lawmakers from the ruling Liberty Korea Party, of which Ms Park is still a member, signed a petition on Wednesday to urge the court to reject the arrest warrant.

A district court in Seoul issued the warrant early Friday local time, according to Reuters, just hours after the disgraced politician appeared before the court for questioning. Prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her, meaning she will likely be in jail while her case is heard. She is stripped of powers while awaiting a court decision on the vote. As she left for the hearing, hundreds of her supporters, many of them elderly citizens, gathered at her private Seoul home. A bribery conviction alone is punishable by up to life in prison in South Korea.

Some tried to break through police barricades in an effort to block her four-car convoy, and its journey was broadcast live on television.

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Choi is charged with extorting tens of millions of dollars from scores of conglomerates to establish two non profit foundations she used for personal gains.

Park had been immune from criminal prosecution while in office, and she had repeatedly refused to be questioned by special prosecutors.

Her presidential powers had already been suspended after Parliament impeached her in December.

The controversy centered around Park's friend and close adviser, Choi Soon-sil, who is alleged to have significant and inappropriate influence over Park.

Prosecutors announced Monday that they were seeking to arrest Park on charges relating to abuse of power, taking bribes from companies and leaking important information.

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