March 20, 2017 10:40
Security has been beefed up around the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office as ex-President Park Geun-hye’s first appearance for questioning looms.
Security staff were busy on Sunday checking the route Park is expected to take on her way to questioning Tuesday. Access will be restricted to all outsiders, with only authorized reporters with entry passes allowed into the premises before 8 a.m.
Only two reporters from 40 news outlets will be allowed to stand in the photo line as Park enters the building, and the use of camera drones will be banned.
Officials have been instructed not to reveal in which part of the building Park will be questioned after prosecutors found themselves with egg on their face in November when reporters snapped ex-presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo through the windows when he was being questioned. The photos triggered suspicions that he was being treated with kid gloves.
Park's attorney Sohn Beom-gyu said some of her lawyers will arrive ahead of time and some will accompany her from her home in Samseong-dong. She is apparently undergoing heavy coaching.
Meanwhile, prosecutors grilled Jang Sun-wook, the CEO of Lotte Group's duty-free shopping business, on Sunday over suspicions that huge donations from Lotte to two dodgy non-profits set up by Park's longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil were bribes in return for favors from the president.
Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin met Park face-to-face in February of last year and later donated an extra W7 billion to one of the non-profits, the K-Sports foundation, but the money was returned to him in early June, just before prosecutors searched the conglomerate's offices (US$1=W1,134).
Prosecutors want to know whether Lotte was promised licenses for its lucrative duty-free business in return. On Saturday, prosecutors quizzed SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won on suspicions that his conglomerate's donations to the same foundations bought him a special pardon.
A prosecution spokesman said, "The chiefs of major conglomerates are being questioned to prepare for the questioning of the former president."
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