South Korea scandal: President too busy to take questions, lawyer says

01:32 - Source: CNN
S. Korean protesters demand Park's resignation

Story highlights

As many as 1.5 million people protested Saturday calling for President's resignation

Park has been named as a suspect in a corruption scandal

CNN  — 

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has once again refused to be questioned by prosecutors in a corruption scandal that has prompted mass street protests.

In an SMS message to the prosecutors’ office, Park’s attorney Yoo Yeong-ha said the President was too busy.

“President Park is currently working to control the situation in Korea and also has to pick a special prosecutor by tomorrow so given this schedule it would be difficult,” the text read. “Park cannot co-operate with the prosecutors’ request to question her face-to-face … and we regret that.”

Prosecutors want to question Park as a suspect in a rapidly-expanding corruption case which started with the disclosure that she had shown classified documents to confidante Choi Soon-sil.

South Korea presidential scandal: What you need to know

For weeks, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets calling for Park’s resignation.

Organizers claim up to 1.5 million people protested in downtown Seoul on Saturday night. Police put the figure at close to 270,000. Either way, it was one of the largest demonstrations since the democratization of the country in 1987.

Snow and freezing temperatures did not dampen growing determination to publicly and peacefully show the President they want her to step down, marching at one point within 200 meters of the Blue House, the Presidential palace, where Park lives.

The allegations

Prosecutors have been wanting to question Park over her links to Choi, who is a member of a cult-like religion and has been a close confidante of the president for years.

Choi has been in prison for weeks after being indicted on charges of fraud, abuse of power and coercion, accused of extorting millions of dollars from big businesses for her foundations and personal use.

Offices have been raided, top executives hauled in for questioning and two of Park’s former Presidential aides, among others, have also been indicted.

Prosecutors say they found evidence Park conspired with Choi and her aides. According to the Blue House, Park’s attorney said the suggestion that Park has committed a serious crime is not true and the investigation is based on speculation and imagination.

Park, he says, will co-operate with a special investigation to investigate whether this scandal had an effect on state affairs. Choosing a prosecutor for that separate investigation is coincidentally one of the reasons cited for her being too busy to be questioned.

More arrests

The world of Korean entertainment found itself dragged into the ever-growing scandal Sunday as a former commercial and music video director, Cha Eun-taek was indicted on charges including embezzlement and coercion, prosecutors say.

Park’s attorney mentioned Cha’s indictment along with the President’s former economics advisor as another reason Park is too busy to talk to prosecutors.

02:14 - Source: CNN
South Korea: President Park to be investigated

A number of the ruling Saenuri Party’s lawmakers have resigned over the scandal, and on Monday Park accepted the resignation of Justice Minister Kim Hyun-Woong who submitted his resignation last week.

Opposition leaders are currently planning to start the process of impeachment against Park as early as this week.

The opposition Minjoo Party issued a statement Monday saying President Park must not forget she is a suspect, criticizing her for using her Presidency to avoid prosecutors’ questions.

They have dubbed the scandal “Park-Gate.”