Ousted S Korean President Park Geun-hye questioned for 14 hours

Police contain supporters of Park Geun-hye as she leaves in a car her home in Seoul. Photo: 21 March 2017Image copyright

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Park Geun-hye’s supporters gathered outside her home in Seoul as she left for questioning

Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye is expected to be released by prosecutors after a 14-hour interrogation over a corruption scandal that brought her down.

Ms Park denied all charges on Tuesday, Yonhap news agency reported, citing sources.

She could be charged for allegedly allowing close friend Choi Soon-sil to extort money from large firms.

Ms Choi has been charged with bribery and corruption.

After arriving at the office, she told reporters she was “sorry to the people,” adding: “I will faithfully co-operate with questioning.”

Ms Park did not exercise her right to remain silent during the marathon questioning session, which lasted late into the night, officials said.

She will leave the prosecutors’ office after checking the records of her statements for accuracy, according to her lawyer.

When asked if an arrest warrant was likely to be issued for Ms Park, prosecutors said they were “concentrating on the interrogation”, local media report.

Ms Park resisted efforts to question her when she was president, but lost her immunity when judges upheld parliament’s decision to impeach her.

One of her lawyers said a doctor was doing check-ups during breaks “as her health isn’t looking well”.

On Tuesday morning, Ms Park’s supporters gathered outside her home in an affluent suburb of Seoul, as she was escorted by police to the prosecutors’ office in a short journey covered live on television.

People waved the South Korean flag, a symbol of the pro-Park movement.

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Supporters also gathered outside of the prosecutors’ office amid a heavy police presence

Ms Park is the first democratically elected leader to be ousted in South Korea.

Thousands of people celebrated in Seoul after her removal from office on 10 March. However, there were also angry protests by her supporters outside the Constitutional Court.

The court ruling was the culmination of months of political turmoil and public protest. An election will now be held by 9 May.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is loyal to Ms Park, is currently the acting president.

Why did Park lose her job?

At the heart of the drama lies the close friendship between Ms Park and Ms Choi.

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Ms Park is South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office

Ms Choi is accused of using her presidential connections to pressure companies to give millions of dollars in donations to non-profit foundations she controlled.

Ms Park, 65, is alleged to have been personally involved in this, and to have given Ms Choi unacceptable levels of access to official documents.

Parliament voted to impeach Ms Park in December.

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Ms Choi (centre) has been accused of bribery and corruption

On 10 March, the Constitutional Court ruled that Ms Park’s actions “seriously impaired the spirit of… democracy and the rule of law”.

Judges said she had broken the law by allowing Ms Choi to meddle in state affairs, and had breached guidelines on official secrets by leaking numerous documents.

Ms Park had “concealed completely Choi’s meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticised those who raised the suspicions,” the ruling said.

Analysis – Stephen Evans, Korea Correspondent, BBC News

Sorry is the hardest word. Park Geun-hye used it again today, on the way into her inquisition. She said it nine days ago when she was evicted from the presidential palace – she was sorry that she couldn’t fulfil her presidential duties until the end of her elected term.

And last year, she was “sorry for causing concern among the people”.

But the plethora of apologies still hasn’t added up to an admission of any wrongdoing (beyond being too trusting of those around her).

Even as she said sorry last week, she asserted that her innocence will emerge. Which it may.

One thing had changed slightly in the period since her ousting and today’s appearance before the prosecutor is when she returned home as a private citizen, she was all smiles and defiant.

Today, it was a wan smile – though, guilty or innocent, nobody would relish hours and hours of tough, detailed questions about what dirty deals were done – or not.

What could happen now?

Prosecutors will have to determine, based on their investigation and Ms Park’s statements, whether to issue a warrant for her arrest.

They had previously accused Ms Park of colluding with Ms Choi, which Ms Park has strenuously denied. She had also previously refused to take part in investigations.

But now that she has lost her presidential immunity, she could be charged with abuse of power and coercion to bribery.

Ousted S Korean President Park Geun-hye questioned for 14 hours}