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Park Geun-hye Appears in South Korean Court, Facing Possible Arrest


South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye, leaving her home in Seoul for a courthouse hearing on Thursday. Whether she can return home or will be locked up in a jail will probably be known by early Friday. Credit Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea — Park Geun-hye, the first South Korean president impeached and forced out of office, attended a court hearing on Thursday that will decide whether she should be arrested on criminal charges, including bribery, extortion and abuse of power.

Hundreds of people opposing Ms. Park’s potential arrest cried and shouted as her motorcade pulled out of her two-story, red brick house in southern Seoul for a 10-minute drive to the Seoul Central District Court.

Her motorcade was briefly stopped when angry supporters tried to push past police officers lining the road.

“We can’t let you go!” they shouted, some of them trying to hurl themselves onto the road. The protesters also threw yellow plastic police fences at uniformed officers who tried to push them back.

Her drive to the courthouse was nationally televised.

Ms. Park, who has never accepted the Constitutional Court ruling that ended her presidency on March 10, did not answer questions shouted from reporters as she walked into the courthouse.

On Monday, prosecutors formally asked the Seoul Central District Court to issue a warrant so they could arrest Ms. Park on 13 criminal charges. On Thursday, Judge Kang Bu-young called a closed-door hearing for prosecutors and Ms. Park’s lawyers to argue whether an arrest warrant was justified.

The session was expected to last several hours.

After the hearing, Judge Kang will retire to his office to deliberate on the case further, while Ms. Park waits in the prosecutors’ office.


Supporters of Ms. Park gathered in front of her house on Thursday and tried to block her car from leaving for the courthouse. Credit Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap, via Reuters

Whether she can return home or will be locked up in a jail outside Seoul will probably be known by early Friday, when the judge is expected to make his decision. Judge Kang will only decide whether Ms. Park will stand trial as a free person or under arrest, since prosecutors plan to indict her regardless of his decision.

Prosecutors have accused Ms. Park of conspiring with a longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to collect tens of millions of dollars from big businesses, including more than $ 38 million in bribes from Samsung, the South Korean conglomerate.

Both Ms. Choi and Samsung’s top executive, Lee Jae-yong, are already under arrest and on trial on a number of charges, including bribery.

The National Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 9 to impeach Ms. Park on charges of corruption and abuse of power, and she was formally removed from office on March 10.

Two former presidents — the military dictators Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo — were arrested in 1995 on bribery charges. The two men, former army generals, also faced sedition and mutiny charges for their roles in the 1979 military coup that brought them to power and in the 1980 massacre of antigovernment demonstrators in the southwestern city of Gwangju.

It has not always been easy to summon a former president.

Mr. Chun did not appear to the prosecutors’ office voluntarily. When prosecutors went to apprehend him, his supporters blocked them for hours.

Mr. Chun was sentenced to death — the sentence was later commuted to life in prison — while Mr. Roh was sentenced to 17 years. Both were pardoned and released in December 1997.

Hundreds of supporters for Ms. Park have been rallying daily outside her home, waving national flags. Earlier Thursday, before Ms. Park left her home, about 30 of them briefly lay on the road in a symbolic gesture of preventing her from going to the court hearing.

Source: NYT > World

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