|Members of the Korean Federation for the Environmental Movement (KFEM) demand the upholding of the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, in front of the Constitutional Court in Seoul, Monday, the day of the final hearing in her impeachment trial. Seen behind them are conservative activists calling for the withdrawal of the impeachment motion. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul|
Heated closing arguments exchanged without President
By Lee Kyung-min
|Lee Jung-mi, justice and acting president of the Constitutional Court|
Park did not attend the final hearing at the Constitutional Court, but instead defended herself in a submitted statement.
"I regret causing great pain to the people," Park said in the statement read by Lee Dong-heup, one of her lawyers.
However, she denied all charges leveled against her.
"I have never been involved in corruption in my more than 20 years in politics. I never abused my power or presidential office to benefit a certain individual or seek personal gain."
Park downplayed the significance of the role allegedly played by her confidant Choi Soon-sil, the central figure in the scandal.
"The advice I received from her was nothing policy-defining, but minor choices of words to better communicate with the public using easy phrases," she said.
Park's attorneys continued their attempts to undercut the basis of the impeachment charges on what they claimed were a lack of significant constitutional violations.
The court's hearings have been biased against Park, they said, claiming that it violated due process on multiple accounts.
Asking business leaders for money to fund the Mir and K-Sports foundations set up and controlled by Choi, was to boost hallyu or the Korean wave, with the aim of raising the country's profile on the global stage, the attorneys said.
"Raising funds for the foundations was a perfectly legitimate part of conducting state affairs, and no extortion whatsoever was in play in the process. Choi's alleged involvement was a regrettable act of corruption from Park's closest inner circle, to which she was not privy," said Kim Pyung-woo, one of the attorneys.
Kim reiterated his earlier stance that he would not accept any decision by the court in an apparent attempt to preemptively reject a ruling against the President.
The lawyers also claimed that a ruling made by eight justices instead of nine was unconstitutional and therefore would hold no legal force.
"The retired former court President Park Han-chul was a President Park Geun-hye appointee," said Jeong Ki-seung, one of the attorneys. "With him gone, the ruling is destined to be unfavorable to the President. This is against the Constitution that guarantees a fair trial."
|Eight Constitutional Court judges hear arguments from both National Assembly prosecutorial panel and President Park Geun-hye's defense attorneys at the final hearing of her impeachment trial, at the Constitutional Court in Jongno, downtown Seoul, Monday. / Yonhap|
Justice for the people
In response, the National Assembly prosecutorial panel demanded that the court uphold the impeachment to bring justice as wished by the people.
It called for the immediate removal of the scandal-ridden leader.
"Considering that Park no longer has any basis for the power bestowed upon her — the public trust — her retaining the presidential office is meaningless as it further confuses and divides the country," said Kwon Seong-dong of the new conservative Bareun Party, leading the panel.
The impeachment charges, he said, were the result of a series of acts of malfeasance after Park failed to perform her duty as a president faithfully.
"The President's violations of both the Constitution and other criminal laws have been established through the corroboration of evidence that underwent strict verification," Kwon said.
The panel said Park abused her power by allowing her longtime friend Choi — a "nobody" — to meddle in every aspect of decision making for the country.
"The Constitution clearly states that the Republic of Korea is governed by the people and power comes from the people. By allowing or overlooking Choi's activities, Park fundamentally betrayed the public trust in her as a democratically elected leader," Kwon said.
"The top priority of Park should have been the protection of the public interest. But she abjectly failed by mobilizing not only administrative capabilities, but Cheong Wa Dae's influence in helping Choi pursue her own benefit to the fullest extent possible," he said.
The court will take up to 14 days in deliberations and likely rule on either March 10 or 13, the day of the retirement of acting court President Lee Jung-mi.
|/ Korea Times photos by Shim Hyun-chul|