March 21, 2017 2:00 am JST

Seoul prosecutors set to grill Park in corruption probe

Stripped of presidential immunity, ex-leader can't avoid the hot seat anymore

KENICHI YAMADA, Nikkei staff writer

SEOUL -- Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye is scheduled to appear at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office on Tuesday morning for questioning over her corruption scandal.

A lawyer for Park said Monday that she has prepared a statement to be read when appearing at the prosecutors' office. Park is expected to deny allegations of wrongdoing while cooperating with the probe. She will be the fourth former South Korean president to be questioned as a suspect after leaving office.

Special prosecutors independent of the government also investigated Park from December to February.

Park is suspected of 13 counts of offenses including bribery, abuse of power in civil service appointments, and extortion from major conglomerates. She allegedly conspired with confidante Choi Soon-sil in those cases and let her meddle in national politics.

The top focus of Tuesday's questioning will be whether she took bribes from the Samsung group. Bribery carries heavy penalties.

Both the district and special prosecutors had repeatedly summoned Park for questioning in the months since the scandal broke, only to be thwarted by her presidential immunity.

Should Park deny the allegations, whether the prosecution will request an arrest warrant will be a focal point. Such a move could deepen the political divide between conservatives and progressives.

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