South Korea’s president hits back at ‘premeditated plot’

Park Geun-hye awaits constitutional court decision on her impeachment

Artist Lee Ku-young looks at his painting,   “Dirty Sleep”, which was defaced by supporters of impeached South Korean president Park Geun-hye, at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. Photograph:  Son Hyung-ju/News1 via Reuters

Artist Lee Ku-young looks at his painting, “Dirty Sleep”, which was defaced by supporters of impeached South Korean president Park Geun-hye, at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. Photograph: Son Hyung-ju/News1 via Reuters

 

South Korea’s impeached president Park Geun-hye has hit back at her critics, labelling corruption allegations against her as “colossal” lies and describing the scandal involving her and a long-time confidante as a “premeditated” plot.

“If I track down the string of the allegations, I cannot help but think that the scandal was premeditated, to be candid with you,” she said an interview with the Korea Economic Daily, which was carried by the Yonhap news agency.

“It is disheartening and tough to face misunderstandings due to too many fabrications, but I accept them as part of my faults,” she said.

South Korea has been enmeshed in political crisis since Ms Park was impeached by parliament on December 9th, after allegations she colluded with her friend and adviser Choi Soon-sil to extort money and favours from South Korea’s powerful “chaebols”, or industrial conglomerates, including Samsung.

She is also suspected of allowing Ms Choi meddle in important state affairs. Ms Park has been stripped of her duties and while she cannot be indicted while in office, she has been officially identified as a criminal suspect.

The country’s constitutional court has until June to decide whether to approve the impeachment or reinstate her. If her impeachment is upheld, she will become the first democratically elected leader to be removed from office in South Korea.

Millions of people took to the streets of Seoul and other cities late last year to protest against corruption and also what they say was poor leadership during the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014, which left more than 300 dead or missing.

Nude painting

Ms Park described allegations about her behaviour at the time – she reportedly went missing for seven hours and is accused of spending the time having her hair done and receiving beauty treatments – as reflecting an “excessive interest” in female leaders and showing a latent disrespect for women in South Korea.

“Yes. I think it is a disparagement against women,” she said.

Ms Choi has been formally charged with attempted coercion, abuse of authority and attempted fraud.

The interview marks a fightback by Ms Park, daughter of the late dictator Park Chung-hee, who was assassinated in 1979, and his wife Yook Young-soo, who was assassinated in 1974.

On Wednesday, she filed a lawsuit seeking damages against a local newspaper which said she orchestrated a blacklist of cultural figures deemed critical of her handling of the Sewol disaster.

The list had nearly 10,000 people on it, including Park Chan-wook, director of the well known mystery thriller Oldboy. Those critical of the government were allegedly denied support from the culture ministry.

Ms Park denies involvement in the blacklist. An independent investigation has arrested two of her most senior aides, including ex-culture minister Cho Yoon-sun and ex-presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon.

The culture, sports and tourism ministry apologised over the scandal on Monday, vowing to “fully co-operate” with an investigation.

Earlier this week, Ms Park’s supporters took down a satirical nude painting of her on display in the parliament building in Seoul and threw it on the ground.

The painting, called Dirty Sleep, was a parody of Edouard Monet’s Olympia from 1863, and showed Ms Park lying next to Ms Choi. It was painted by Lee Ku-young, one of the artists on the blacklist, who defended his work saying: “a president of a country is an obvious target of satire”.

However, members of parliament from across the political spectrum condemned the painting as misogynistic.