The woman at the center of a scandal in South Korea has claimed that she is innocent and that she is being forced to confess to guilt.
Choi Soon-sil, who has been charged for interfering in government policy-making by abusing her friendship with President Park Geun-hye, claimed innocence at the office of the special prosecutor on Wednesday by shouting to reporters that she was giving forced confessions. She was led away by law enforcement officers as she angrily made the claim.
Choi was taken into the special prosecutor’s office on an arrest warrant after her refusal to respond to several summons for questioning.
“I am being forced to confess committing crimes jointly with the president,” she shouted to the reporters while being pushed into a lift by correctional officers. “I don’t deserve to be treated like this. And my baby and my grandson.”
The dramatic incident came as the Constitutional Court’s outgoing chief judge called on the bench to conclude a ruling in Park’s impeachment trial by March 13, when another judge on the panel is due to retire. The subtraction of the two from the nine-judge court could potentially prompt efforts to challenge its verdict on the high-profile case.
Speaking on the ninth day of the impeachment hearing, Chief Judge Park Han-chul, who retires on January 31, underlined that the retirement of two judges may distort the impartiality of the high court.
“If another judge’s seat is vacated, that is not just a matter of one vacated seat but could distort the outcome of the decision,” Park, the judge, said at a public hearing.
Seven sitting judges are the minimum required by law to rule on an impeachment, with six needed to vote to uphold the motion for Park’s removal from office.
The ruling is essential to determine the president’s fate. If confirmed, Park would be ousted and an election would be called within 60 days. If not, she would be reinstated. Park was impeached by the parliament late last year, and the Constitutional Court now has to decide about the validity of the parliament decision.
There are also allegations that the president and Choi, her friend, “colluded” to extort money from big companies. South Korean prosecutors are also looking into Samsung Group’s sponsorship of the equestrian riding career of Choi’s daughter, 20-year-old Chung Yoo-ra, who was detained in Denmark on an official request by South Korean authorities.
Chung has been charged with criminal interference related to her academic records as well as other, still-unspecified charges.