December 27, 2016 09:50
Lawmakers investigating the massive corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun-he had a frustrating Monday when they tried to question her longtime crony Choi Soon-sil in jail.
Choi, who is on remand awaiting trial for extortion and abuse of power, refused to come out of her cell when the lawmakers went to see her and had to be questioned in situ, only to deny every charge.
Choi has so far refused to appear in several National Assembly hearings probing the scandal that has brought down Park, so lawmakers eventually decided to question her in jail instead.
In a typically confused and emotional display, Choi "spent most of the time expressing frustration about the situation she ended up in," Chang Je-won of the ruling Saenuri Party told reporters later.
She said she was "ready to serve a life sentence" but denied all allegations against her, including extorting huge amounts of money from conglomerates and channeling it through two dodgy nonprofits she controlled under the aegis of Cheong Wa Dae.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, she denied even knowing the Cheong Wa Dae secretaries and presidential chief of staff accused of eagerly smoothing her path to wealth and influence at Park's orders. She said she never conspired with Park in any crimes or engaged in any wrongdoing.
She also denied that her daughter was illegally admitted to Ehwa Womans University as a dressage athlete due to her influence peddling, or stashing W800 billion in bank accounts in Germany (US$1=W1,202).
Asked if she is disappointed by Park, Choi said "no" and apologized for bringing "various confusion" to the public. She also added that she hoped that the country "could return to normal." Chang said Choi did not seem to feel any guilt, but "wept uncontrollably when issues about her daughter were brought up."
Lawmakers also questioned two of the ex-secretaries, An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong, in jail. An told them he acted entirely on Park's orders and made no decisions himself.
Jeong admitted passing confidential documents to Choi but said he did not take orders from Park on every decision he made. He admitted that Choi revised drafts of Park's notoriously nebulous and convoluted speeches but denied that Choi interfered in the appointment of senior government officials.
Lawmakers quoted him as saying it was "his fate" that things turned out as they did and that he considers it "his duty and destiny" to support Park once he is released from jail.
Earlier, lawmakers expressed their anger that they have no power to force witnesses to answer a summons and called for a bill compelling them to report.
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