Ex-SKorea leader Park complains about extension of detention
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Jailed former South Korean President Park Geun-hye called herself a victim of “political revenge” in her first public remarks since her high-profile corruption trial began in May, news reports said, as her lawyers resigned Monday in an apparent protest over the court’s decision to extend her detention.
The moves appeared to be aimed at applying pressure on the court and rallying her small number of conservative supporters in a development that could intensify a political divide and delay the trial.
The Seoul Central District Court said Park’s seven lawyers resigned collectively Monday, three days after it approved an additional six-month arrest warrant for her. Court officials said they will appoint lawyers for Park if her lawyers do not reverse their decision or Park doesn’t name a new defense.
A verdict had been expected possibly before the end of the year. If Park has new lawyers, the trial is likely to be delayed because they will need to become familiarized with a massive amount of court and investigation documents, reportedly estimated at more than 100,000 pages.
Park, who was removed from office and arrested in late March, faces a range of corruption and other charges that could lead to a lengthy prison term. Among the key charges are that she colluded with a longtime friend to take tens of millions of dollars from companies in bribes and extortion.
During a court session Monday, Park reiterated her innocence, saying she hopes she will be the last person to suffer “political revenge” orchestrated in the name of justice. She also described her past months of detention as a “wretched and miserable time,” and said she had never abused her power or accepted illicit requests for favors while in office, Yonhap news agency reported.
Other South Korean media carried similar reports about Park’s comments. The Seoul court said it couldn’t confirm them, while calls to her former main lawyer were not answered.
Park denied most of the allegations many times before her March arrest, but Monday’s comments were her first in court since her trial started.
It wasn’t clear who Park was accusing of revenge, but she was likely referring to those who organized or participated in months of rallies that called for her ouster after the corruption scandal flared last autumn. Among them were supporters of Park’s chief liberal rival and current President Moon Jae-in, who won an easy victory in May’s presidential by-election after Park’s early departure.
Moon’s ruling party called Park’s comments “very disappointing,” saying she should have apologized and revealed the truth about the scandal rather than trying to reject the court process and muster her supporters.
Park, the daughter of a deeply divisive dictator, became South Korea’s first female president in early 2013. A small but growing number of Park’s supporters — many in their 50s, 60s, and 70s — has been rallying near the court in recent months, calling for her release.