LAWYERS for embattled South Korean President Park Geun-hye struck a defiant note on Friday, saying a parliamentary vote to impeach her had no legal basis and should be overturned by the Constitutional Court.
Park was indicted in a Dec 9 vote by a wider-than-expected 234-56 margin, setting the stage for her to become the country’s first democratically elected leader to be ejected from office.
“We see no grounds for impeachment and it should be struck down,” Lee Joong-hwan, a former prosecutor who is part of the team representing Park, told reporters gathered at the court building where the fate of her presidency will be decided.
Her lawyers also said that it was unlikely that Park would appear before the court when it begins to hear the case. The court could take up to 180 days to reach a decision.
Park, 64, whose father ruled the country for 18 years after seizing power in a 1961 coup, is accused of colluding with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil, who has been indicted and is in custody, to pressure big businesses to make contributions to non-profit foundations backing presidential initiatives.
Park, who is serving a single five-year term that is due to end in February 2018, has denied wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in her ties with Choi.
She has refused widespread calls to resign immediately, despite huge weekly protests and Parliament’s overwhelming vote for impeachment, fuelling concern the political crisis could drag on for months.
But her lawyer said her legal team was looking to move quickly.
“We want a quick process and will not request to delay it,” Lee said.
Although stripped of her presidential powers, which are being wielded by the prime minister, Park retains her title and her official residence.
She has presidential immunity while in office, but risks facing prosecution upon her departure.
Earlier on Friday, an official in the presidential Blue House said parliamentary investigators would not get access to her official residence, citing national security.
“They can’t come inside,” a Blue House official told reporters, declining to be identified.
“We haven’t changed our stance on that. We are in talks regarding where to meet, and what to do, if parliament’s special committee wants to hold an inspection.”
The Blue House official also denied allegations it had ordered South Korea’s intelligence agency to spy on judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
“The Blue House has never spied on anybody and it’s something that should not happen,” the official said of the allegations, made by a former media executive during a televised parliamentary hearing on Thursday.
On Friday, Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor in the case, told reporters the team would keep looking for legal grounds allowing it to enter the Blue House.
The special prosecutor’s office has said it wants to search the offices of former Blue House officials who have been indicted in the case. – Reuters