More witnesses for South Korean President’s impeachment

Seoul, Jan 23 (IANS) South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s lawyers on Monday requested that 39 more witnesses appear at her impeachment trial.

The request came during the eighth hearing at the Constitutional Court where a trial has been on to determine whether to uphold Park’s impeachment over an alleged corruption scandal involving her friend and long-time confidant Choi Soon-sil, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Both Park and Choi have refuted all charges and are demanding a fair trial to determine what is really behind the supposed wrongdoing.

Lawyer Lee Joong-hwan asked the court to summon Park’s former Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon, former Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs Woo Byung-woo and a host of other figures implicated in the scandal.

“Former Chief of Staff Kim is linked to all the grounds for impeachment while former Senior Secretary Woo is linked to the investigation into Lotte,” he said.

Lotte is one of several conglomerates suspected of providing funds to Choi under pressure from the presidential office.

The parliamentary impeachment panel serving as the prosecution suggested that the lawyers seek written statements but Lee insisted questioning the 39 in court, Yonhap reported.

Chief Justice Park Han-chul said they would decide whether to accept the request at the next hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

Park is immune from prosecution while in office and a delay in the court’s deliberations could protect her from a special prosecutor investigating the scandal under a deadline.

It could also help her buy time to recover some of her lost public support that can influence the verdict by the Constitutional Court.

After almost universal condemnation, there has been growing suspicions by conservatives loyal to Park that the investigation carried out by state prosecutors and the media may have been incomplete.