Former Cheong Wa Dae secretary Jeong Ho-seong wept on Monday as he was testifying in the corruption trial of disgraced ex-President Park Geun-hye.
It was the first time Park and Jeong, who is separately on trial for acting as the ex-president's bag man in passing state secrets to her confidante Choi Soon-sil, faced each other since he was arrested in November last year.
Jeong bowed to Park as he entered the court room, and she nodded in response. Taking the witness stand, Jeong said, "What can I possibly say in this wretched trial of a president whom I served for a long time?" He added, "I refuse to offer my testimony due to the tremendous emotional pain I feel."
But before the day's session ended, Jeong asked to make some remarks that he appeared to think would exonerate his former boss.
"It pains me to find that there are many facts that have been distorted about the president," he told the court. "She was so punctilious that any mention of the word bribe would have caused her to shudder. I deeply regret that I failed to protect her."
In a performance that cast a chilling light on the culture of servility that surrounded Park in office, he then tearfully volunteered to take the fall for her.
"The president always tried hard to make her speeches better understood by the public, so she asked me if it would be ok to have Choi take a look at them," he said. "I gave Choi the documents because of my desire to do my job better, and I take responsibility. But it is stretching things to claim that the president colluded with me."
Evidence suggests that Park not only insisted on Choi's edits, which often turned professionally written speeches into convoluted nonsense, but also let Choi vet nominees for public office and otherwise meddle in government.
Jeong was repeatedly unable to continue as emotion overcame him, and Park wiped her eyes as she looked on.
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