Park Geun-hye to Be Questioned in Corruption Scandal, South Korea Says
SEOUL, South Korea — Prosecutors announced plans on Tuesday to question former President Park Geun-hye of South Korea in a corruption scandal, four days after she was removed from office in a historic court ruling.
Ms. Park’s presidency formally ended last Friday, when the Constitutional Court approved the National Assembly’s vote to impeach her in December.
She was the first South Korean leader ousted under popular pressure since the country’s founding president, Syngman Rhee, fled into exile in Hawaii in 1960.
Although prosecutors have identified Ms. Park as a criminal suspect accused of bribery, extortion and abuse of power in recent months, they could not indict her or even summon her by force while she was president. But now that she has become an ordinary citizen, prosecutors moved swiftly.
On Tuesday, they said they were formally opening an investigation on her, adding that they would announce, most likely on Wednesday, when they planned to question her.
If she is summoned, she will be the first former South Korean president to be grilled by prosecutors since 2009, when former President Roh Moo-hyun was questioned on corruption allegations involving his family.
Two other former presidents — the military dictators Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo — were questioned in 1995 on suspicion of bribery. 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 Kwangju.
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.)
Roh Moo-hyun was never indicted; deeply humiliated, he killed himself by jumping off a cliff behind his home in southern South Korea a few weeks after he was questioned by prosecutors in Seoul. His funeral brought together a crowd of supporters who called the investigation of Mr. Roh a political vendetta from the conservative government then in power.
It has not always been easy to summon a former president.
Mr. Chun did not go to the prosecutors’ office voluntarily. When prosecutors went to apprehend him, his supporters blocked them for hours.
Such a standoff is feared if Ms. Park decides not to cooperate with prosecutors.
As president, she refused to be questioned by prosecutors or testify at the Constitutional Court, calling her impeachment politically biased. After her ouster, she hinted at defiance, refusing to accept the court ruling and instead saying that “the truth will be known” later.
Since she returned to her private home in southern Seoul on Sunday, her supporters have been rallying outside daily, waving national flags.
Ms. Park has denied any wrongdoing in the scandal, which has shaken the political and business elite for months.
Prosecutors said that she conspired with her secretive longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to collect tens of millions of dollars from big businesses, like Samsung, and that some of the money represented bribes for political favors. Ms. Choi is already under arrest and on trial.