Independent Counsel Asks for Extension of Probe

      February 17, 2017 12:56

      Independent counsel Park Young-soo on Thursday asked acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn to give him another month to investigate the corruption scandal that has brought down President Park Geun-hye.

      The initial 70-day investigation period ends on Feb. 28, but President Park and her fellow suspects and staff continue to stall as she remains holed up in Cheong Wa Dae.

      The request came early as the counsel only needs to ask for an extension three days in advance. Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the independent counsel, said, "We believe that we can't finish the investigation by Feb. 28 because there are too many suspects to investigate and that it'll surely take considerable time for the acting president to make a decision."

      "We just sent a letter of request to acting president Hwang, leaving everything to his discretion without giving him a deadline," Lee added.

      Hwang, a Park loyalist, is in a bind over whether to shield his leader or appease public calls for a cleanup of politics. Hwang's office in a press release pledged to "review the request according to law." In the National Assembly on Feb. 10, he said it was "too early" to consider an extension.

      Another reason for the early request may be that opposition lawmakers, who have a majority in the National Assembly, are poised to simply amend the bill mandating the independent counsel if Hwang refuses.

      Meanwhile, the Seoul Administrative Court on Thursday dismissed a request from the counsel to force Cheong Wa Dae to permit a search of the presidential office after investigators were physically barred by staff.

      The court said the law does not give the independent counsel standing to sue the presidential office. "The court decision was in accordance with the principle of law," a presidential spokesman said.

      The only option now is to subpoena any Cheong Wa Dae documents that have escaped the shredder.

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