January 24, 2017 11:00
President Park Geun-hye's lawyers have suddenly named another 39 witnesses in her impeachment trial in an apparent attempt to drag out proceedings.
The surprise move to tap 39 witnesses, many of who are likely to deliver testimony that is damaging to Park, came on Friday as the court decided to use transcribed prosecutors' interviews with 46 suspects to save time and summon only a handful in person.
They include her former chief of staff Kim Ki-choon, who is separately under arrest, former national security chief and now ambassador to China Kim Jang-soo, and ex-presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo.
Park's lawyers say they want to question them about how major conglomerates ended up donating vast amounts of money to two dodgy nonprofits controlled by Park's longtime crony Choi Soon-sil and listen to their accounts of what the president was doing when she was nowhere to be found on the day of the 2014 ferry disaster.
Insiders are bewildered by the sheer number of witnesses tapped this late in the day.
Constitutional Court Justice Kang Il-won questioned the need to interview so many witnesses and urged Park's lawyers instead to comply with a court request for Park's own defense against the allegations.
The court agreed to summon six of the witnesses but reserved its decision on the rest. Kim Ki-choon is to testify on Feb. 1.
One lawyer who used to be a researcher for the Constitutional Court said, "Since it takes around two weeks for the court to reach a conclusion after the end of arguments, it seems unlikely that the judges will arrive at a ruling before March."
The court has 180 days from the start of the trial to decide, but judge Park Han-chul's term ends in the end of this month and judge Lee Jung-mi's term ends in mid-March, which apparently has spawned hopes in Park's legal team that a smaller bench will have a harder time agreeing to impeach her.
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