S. Korea prosecutors grill Park over corruption allegations

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Former President Park Geun-hye speaks to reporters after arriving at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seoul on Tuesday.

On March 10, the constitutional court permanently removed Park from office by unanimously upholding the bill to impeach Park that was passed in the parliament on December 9. Park was accused past year by prosecutors of acting as an accomplice to a longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, who allegedly used her ties to the president to extort money from South Korea's biggest corporations, including Samsung.

This is the first time prosecutors will question her since she lost her immunity, a protection Park had refused to give up until the constitutional court delivered its final verdict.

Since the passage of the impeachment, Park had vowed to be interrogated by both state and special prosecutors, but she eventually dismissed the requests for questioning by both of them, citing various reasons.

After the impeachment, Park, as a suspended president, answered some questions from reporters on January 1, only to insist on her innocence.

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Park's early exit paved the way for an election to take place on May 9, with opposition candidates pledging to break up the cozy relationships between big business and government officials leading in polls. Others insist an arrest warrant is inevitable given the nature of the charges against Park and because she's failed to appear for questioning until now. Through her former presidential spokesman, Rep. Min Kyung-wook of the Liberty Korea Party, Park issued a controversial message received as a denial of the Constitutional Court's ruling.

Park has said she never knew about the alleged blacklists.

The statement carried by the official mouthpiece Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang said: "South Koreans' candlelight vigils were unprecedented expressions. of grudge and anger against dictator Park and her fellows". The money in question includes more than 20 billion won ($18 million) that Samsung donated to the nonprofits Choi controlled. Coming two days after the court ruled to uphold the parliamentary impeachment of her, it was widely taken as a hint at her unwillingness to concede.

They had previously accused Ms Park of colluding with Ms Choi, which Ms Park has strenuously denied. Park's acts "betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that can not be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution", Justice Lee said.

Two of Park's lawyers will be alternatively present throughout the prosecution. Such a move could deepen the political divide between conservatives and progressives. Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of Samsung, has been detained and is on trial on charges including bribery, embezzlement and perjury.