New Year messages: South Korea

Park breaks silence and claims she has been framed

South Korean President Park Geun Hye speaking during a meeting with reporters at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, on Jan 1, 2017.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye speaking during a meeting with reporters at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, on Jan 1, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL • In a rare and hastily arranged New Year meeting with reporters, South Korea's impeached President Park Geun Hye broke a month-long silence over her alleged role in a corruption scandal.

She said accusations against her were "fabrication and falsehood" and again denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Park's meeting with local journalists was the first since she was impeached by the South Korean Parliament on Dec 9. She was seen interacting with journalists in a relaxed manner and fielded questions for almost 50 minutes.

It has been rare for her to meet the Blue House press corps since she took office in 2013. Last year, the media-shy leader delivered her New Year message to the nation in a two-minute pre-recorded video.

But this year, the President's New Year message was given by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn, who took over her executive powers. The acting president pledged a return to stability in a message aimed at reassuring the country after a political crisis triggered Ms Park's downfall.

 
 
 
 
 

Ms Park yesterday said that she had been set up, amid allegations that she ordered the government to support a 2015 merger of two affiliates of South Korean conglomerate Samsung - a deal now central to the investigation against her.

"It's completely framed," she was quoted by local media as saying, without elaborating.

Since the scandal came to light, Ms Park has apologised thrice in tearful televised addresses.

Her comments yesterday were more detailed than previous ones. She expressed frustration at "distorted and false" suspicions and "erroneous" media coverage.

South Korea's first female president is being investigated over accusations that she gave favours to big businesses in return for financial contributions to entities controlled by her friend Choi Soon Sil.

Choi is now on trial for coercion and abuse of power, largely related to the corporate funding of the two foundations which she allegedly plundered. Yesterday, Ms Park denied that Choi was allowed to wield undue and wide-reaching influence over state affairs.

Ms Park's fate is in the hands of the Constitutional Court, which has 180 days to uphold the impeachment or reinstate her. It is set to hold its first hearing tomorrow.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Park breaks silence and claims she has been framed'. Print Edition | Subscribe