South Korea scandal: Choi and Park cases in court

The first main hearing in the Constitutional Court review of the motion for impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in Seoul's Jongno district on January 3.

Now it is up to the nine judges on the Constitutional Court to uphold the impeachment vote or reinstate Park, who has been suspended from office, but continues to live in the presidential Blue House. The attorneys for the National Assembly's impeachment and prosecution committee have announced they will call witnesses during that hearing in the following order: Jung, who has acknowledged the prosecutors' charges against him; Ahn, who has testified that he received orders from the president; and Choi, who has denied the charges against her.

Parliament voted on December 9 to impeach Ms Park, suspending her powers and making the prime minister the government caretaker. The nine-justice court can not force Park to appear. Choi, Choi's niece, and several former government and presidential officials have been indicted, and a special prosecution team has been investigating bribery suspicions between Park and business giant Samsung. Park skipped the first hearing in her impeachment trial Tuesday and opening arguments were delayed to the second session.

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Lawmaker Kweon Seong Dong, the chief prosecutor in the trial, said Park betrayed the trust people put in her by "broadly and gravely" violating the constitution and criminal laws.

"President Park didn't know that Choi was effectively in control of the foundations", he said.

Park was impeached by parliament late past year, a decision that must be upheld or rejected by the Constitutional Court. Witnesses are due in court for the first time today.

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Her Danish lawyer, Jan Schneider, said Chung denied any wrongdoing and that an appeal of her four-week detention had been filed.

The court was not able to deliver subpoenas to former aides Ahn Bong-geun and Lee Jae-man, who both worked with Park for almost 20 years since her days as a lawmaker, and Lee Yeong-seon, a current aide, asked to appear at another date, the court said.

He said Park must be removed from office to fix the damage she had caused to the country's democracy. Asked about the work, Yun said, "I do not remember accurately what it was, but it was her personal or unofficial business".

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During Thursday's hearings, Seo Seok-gu, another Park lawyer, argued that the investigation into Ms Park was biased and suggested that the massive protests that pushed politicians to impeach her were influenced by groups sympathetic to North Korea. "Since the defendant has not appeared, we are forced to delay the hearing pursuant to the Constitutional Court Act".


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