SOUTH KOREAN President Park Geun Hye’s embroiled confidante refused to testify at impeachment hearings yesterday, in what MPs called a delaying ploy.
The Constitutional Court had expected to hear from Choi Soon Sil, Ms Park’s childhood friend, who is herself on trial as part of the scandal threatening to bring down the president.
But Ms Choi submitted documents to the court saying she was unable to testify because she had to prepare her own defence.
She noted that her daughter was also being investigated over the corruption scandal and quoted an article in the country’s criminal litigation law that allows a person to refuse to give testimony that could put relatives at risk of prosecution or conviction.
Two jailed former presidential aides who allegedly helped Ms Choi also refused to testify on similar grounds. National assembly members serving as prosecutors raised suspicions that Ms Park’s lawyers had orchestrated a stalling tactic.
“Three important witnesses all refused to testify, like they planned it ahead,” said MP Lee Chun Suak. “We think there’s an invisible hand at work.”
The court said it would call all three as witnesses again next week and would take steps to forcibly summon them if they refused to appear again.
Ms Choi is charged with abusing her relationship with the president to influence government policy and solicit millions of pounds’ worth of supposed charitable donations from South Korea’s “chaebol” big business clans.
Ms Choi’s late father, Church of Eternal Life cult leader Choi Tae Min, has been dubbed the “Korean Rasputin” for the hold he gained over the young Ms Park after her mother and father, dictator Park Chung Hee, were assassinated.
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