The trial of Choi Soon-sil has got under way in South Korea.
Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of President Park Geun-hye, is at the center of an influence-peddling scandal involving the South Korean president.
She is charged with abuse of power and attempted fraud.
Separately, the Constitutional Court began considering President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment over the scandal.
That trial, where the court must ratify or overturn a parliamentary impeachment vote, began despite Park Geun-hye’s absence.
Proceedings opened on January 3 but were curtailed because Park Geun-hye did not attend.
On January 5, the court went ahead anyway.
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Park Geun-hye’s lawyer has previously said she will not be in court “unless there are special circumstances”, Yonhap news agency reported.
Both cases center on allegations President Park Geun-hye gave Choi Soon-sil unauthorized access to government decisions and allowed her to exploit their close relationship to solicit money from corporations for foundations from which she benefitted.
Both women have apologized but deny committing criminal offences.
The scandal has rocked South Korea, sparking several huge demonstrations.
While the impeachment process continues, Park Geun-hye remains formally president but with most of her powers handed to the prime minister, a role that normally has little executive authority.
Separately, Yonhap news agency reports that South Korea has sent a formal extradition request to Denmark for Choi Soon-sil’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, several days after saying they were working on it.
Chung Yoo-ra, a former national equestrian rider, was arrested in Denmark on January 8 and later appeared in court accused of overstaying her visa.
Part of the investigation into Choi Soon-sil’s activities relates to a gift horse from South Korean conglomerate Samsung allegedly for Chung Yoo-ra’s training.
The prestigious Ewha Women’s University in Seoul is also accused of giving Chung Yoo-ra a place – she has since left – because of her mother’s connections.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has failed to attend a constitutional court hearing on her impeachment.
The session was closed after nine minutes and postponed to January 5 because of her absence.
On December 9, the parliament voted to impeach Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal.
Park Geun-hye’s close friend Choi Soon-sil has been charged with abuse of power. The president is alleged to have been involved as well, which she denies.
Her impeachment case is being heard in a court by nine judges. They have 180 days to decide whether Park Geun-hye, who has been suspended from duties, should go or stay.
Though the court has requested her presence, Park Geun-hye’s lawyer has said she will not attend “unless there are special circumstances”, Yonhap news agency reported. If Park Geun-hye fails to appear for a second time on January 5, the hearing can proceed without her.
Image source Wikimedia
According to the Korea Times, the justices will be assessing whether she abused her power, took part in bribery and violated the rule of law, among other issues.
Park Geun-hye met reporters on January 1 to strongly deny allegations from prosecutors that she was involved in Choi Soon-sil’s dealings, calling them “distorted and false” suspicions.
Choi Soon-sil is said to have used her close relationship with Park Geun-hye to pressure companies into donating to two foundations which she controlled, and then siphoned off funds for her personal use.
The scandal has rocked South Korea, which has seen multiple mass protests calling for Park Geun-hye to step down and apologize.
The president has admitted giving Choi Soon-sil inappropriate access to government decisions and has publically apologized for this several times.
Separately, South Korean authorities said on January 3 they were proceeding with the extradition of Choi Soon-sil’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra.
Chung Yoo-ra, a former national equestrian, was arrested in Denmark on January 1 for staying in the country illegally.
Part of the investigation into Choi Soon-sil’s activities relates to a gift horse from Samsung to her, allegedly for Chung Yoo-ra’s training.
Academics from the prestigious Ewha Women’s University in Seoul are also being investigated for admitting Chung Yoo-ra and allegedly giving her preferential treatment.
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