Former South Korean president Park Geun Hye apologises to nation, vows to face corruption probe sincerely

South Korea's ousted leader Park Geun Hye heads to the prosecutors' office to be questioned over a widening corruption scandal in Seoul, South Korea, on March 21, 2017.
South Korea's ousted leader Park Geun Hye heads to the prosecutors' office to be questioned over a widening corruption scandal in Seoul, South Korea, on March 21, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS
Supporters of South Korea's ousted leader Park Geun Hye sit on a road outside her private home in Seoul, South Korea, on March 21, 2017, before Park heads to the prosecutors' office.
Supporters of South Korea's ousted leader Park Geun Hye sit on a road outside her private home in Seoul, South Korea, on March 21, 2017, before Park heads to the prosecutors' office.PHOTO: REUTERS
A supporter of former South Korean President Park Geun Hye holds a banner featuring an image of Park during a protest outside the prosecutors office in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, on March 21, 2017.
A supporter of former South Korean President Park Geun Hye holds a banner featuring an image of Park during a protest outside the prosecutors office in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, on March 21, 2017.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL -  Former South Korean president Park Geun Hye has apologised to the nation as she arrived at the prosecutor's office on Tuesday (March 21) for the first time to face a criminal probe over her involvement in a corruption and influence peddling scandal that brought her downfall.

"I am sorry to our citizens. I will undergo questioning sincerely," Ms Park said calmly in front of a media mob at the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office.

Accompanied by her lawyers, Ms Park is expected to face questioning the whole day. 

Ms Park, the country's first female president and the first to be removed from office during term, faces 13 charges including bribery, abuse of power and leaking government secrets. 

Prosecutors have accused her of colluding with her civilian friend Choi Soon Sil to extort millions of dollars  from big conglomerates including Samsung as donations to two foundations controlled by Choi, abusing her power to allow Choi to meddle in state affairs, and leaking official documents to her.   

Some 40 people have been indicted in connection to the scandal, including Choi, Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong, and Ms Park's former aides.

While Ms Park apologised to the nation three times in the months prior to her ouster, she has denied any wrongdoing.  

The scandal triggered massive protests and led to the parliament to vote in favour of impeaching Ms Park last December. The decision was upheld by the Constitutional Court on March 10 and she was ousted from office.

Stripped of presidential immunity against criminal prosecution, Ms Park was summoned by prosecutors last week. Tuesday marks the first time the 65-year-old is questioned in person regarding the case. 

She left her house in the upscale Gangnam district at 9.15am local time (8.15am Singapore time), with dozens of her supporters waiting outside waving national flags and protesting against her impeachment. She arrived at the prosecutor's office about seven minutes later. 

Ms Park is the country's fourth former head of state to face a criminal investigation, after Mr Roh Tae Woo, Mr Chun Doo Hwan and Mr Roh Moo Hyun.