Key Suspects Dodge National Assembly Grilling

      December 08, 2016 11:21

      Only 14 out of 27 suspects in the massive corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun-hye showed up at a National Assembly hearing on Wednesday.

      The key figure, Park's longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, her sister Choi Soon-deuk and nephew Jang Seung-ho failed to appear citing ill health, and her daughter Chung Yoo-ra has gone to ground in Germany.

      Former Cheong Wa Dae secretaries Jeong Ho-seong, Ahn Bong-geun and Lee Jae-man, who have been by Park's side since she started in politics 18 years ago, also failed to show up.

      Jeong's excuse was that he was being investigated by prosecutors, while Ahn claimed his appearance would be a "serious invasion of privacy" and have a negative impact on his adolescent daughter.

      Lee claimed he was suffering from "acute stress, sleeplessness, ulcers and nausea." Former presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo and his mother-in-law as well as Hong Ki-taek, a former head of state-run Korea Development Bank, gave no reasons for their no-show.

      Another former presidential secretary An Chong-bum, former culture, sports and tourism minister Yoo Jin-ryong, another crony of Choi Soon-sil's, and Lee Sung-han, who headed the dubious Mir Foundation set up by Choi and lavishly funded by big corporations, also failed to show up.

      Jang Si-ho, the niece of Choi Soon-sil, swears to tell the truth in a National Assembly hearing on Wednesday.

      Choi's niece Jang Si-ho, allegedly her closest aide, was the only member of her family to show up. She initially refused but decided to come after being presented with a summons by National Assembly officials.

      Jang is accused of meddling in various government-funded projects for personal gain but claimed she only did what her aunt told her to do. She pleaded filial piety. "I was in a position where I had to obey the orders of Choi Soon-sil and I couldn't refuse because she is my aunt," she said.

      Lawmakers were furious at the no-shows and vowed to toughen penalties for disobeying a National Assembly summons. They plan to hold another round of hearings on Dec. 19 and demand all those who did not appear on Wednesday present themselves.

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