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Thursday 14 December 2017

South Korean officials order Park confidante to attend corruption hearing

The empty seat of Choi Soon-sil during a hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul (AP)
The empty seat of Choi Soon-sil during a hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul (AP)

A South Korean parliamentary committee has ordered the jailed woman at the centre of a scandal threatening to bring down the president to attend a hearing investigating her alleged manipulation of government affairs.

The move at the beginning of a hearing is the latest step in what appears to be the final days in power for President Park Geun-hye, who faces an impeachment vote on Friday.

Legislators sent about 20 security officers with an order demanding that Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of colluding with Ms Park to control government affairs and extort companies, and 10 other witnesses attend the hearing.

Choi and the others could face jail or fines if they refuse. In past cases, witnesses who refused to attend hearings were often fined. Choi, now jailed at a detention centre near Seoul, had earlier cited a panic disorder as the reason why she could not give evidence, according one of the officials at the hearing.

Choi and two of Ms Park's ex-presidential aides have been indicted. Fourteen people caught up in the scandal are at the hearing, including two of Choi's former associates and ex-presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon.

If impeached, Ms Park's presidential powers will be suspended and the country's Constitutional Court has up to 180 days to rule whether to formally unseat her.

On Tuesday, she told ruling party leaders she was willing to accept the outcome if impeached and would make "every available effort" to prepare for a court process.

The comments suggest she is bracing for a Constitutional Court procedure that would determine her fate, according to South Korean media reports.

AP

Press Association

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