November 21, 2016 13:22
Cheong Wa Dae was furious Sunday after prosecutors named President Park Geun-hye as an accomplice in corruption charges against her friend Choi Soon-sil and two aides.
"The prosecution's announcement... is very regrettable," a Cheong Wa Dae official said. Park's lawyer Yoo Yeong-ha claimed the charges are based on "imagination and conjecture" and refused to respond to requests for questioning of the president.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Jung Youn-kuk told reporters that any allegations against the president are "by no means" true and criticized the prosecution for "hastily" bringing charges without offering Park a chance to explain herself. Prosecutors repeatedly asked Park to answer questions before the legal deadline for indicting the three suspects expired, but she stalled.
The presidential office also hinted that it may wait for impeachment proceedings, which now seem almost a certainty, to determine Park's legal responsibility. Jung added investigators did not maintain political neutrality and their allegations amount to "character assassination." He said Park will cooperate fully with an upcoming probe by an independent counsel to prove her innocence.
Yoo also said in a statement that the president will prepare for a probe by an independent counsel expected to begin next month. That suggests Park is now hell-bent on playing for time by refusing to cooperate with prosecutors or to resign. The independent counsel will need some time to get set up and amass evidence before Park can be grilled, and impeachment proceedings could take up to six months.
Yoo denied all charges against Park in the indictments and claimed that two nonprofit foundations Choi allegedly ran for personal gain were presidential projects, and it was illogical to claim that Park "colluded with individuals to privatize them" since she stood to gain no personal advantage.
Yoo also sought to distance Park from Choi, who he claimed committed all the offenses on her own. The lawyer also reiterated Park's earlier claim that she only handed over drafts of her speeches to Choi to get her opinion and denied that Choi wrote entire speeches. He added that the contents could not be considered state secrets.
Park's line of defense has repeatedly focused on the extent of Choi's input into her curiously opaque and convoluted speeches, which are now a minor aspect of the snowballing scandal.
The Cheong Wa Dae spokesman warned that political moves targeting Park based solely on the findings of prosecutors could lead to "chaos" in government and everyone would suffer the consequences.
"In that case, it would be better for the controversy to be settled as soon as possible through legal and constitutional procedures that can determine the responsibility of the president," he added.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said Park cannot accept demands for her to resign "based only on popular opinion" and that she would do everything possible "within her legal rights."
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