Former South Korean president Park refuses to appear at bribery trial hearing

South Korean ousted leader Park Geun-hye arrives at a court in Seoul on Aug 25, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - Citing back pain and swelling in her knee, jailed former president Park Geun Hye refused to appear at the resumption of her bribery trial on Monday (Nov 27).

A court hearing was to begin at 10 am Monday, but Park, 65, did not attend the hearing, according to the Seoul Central District Court.

The trial will resume on Tuesday (Nov 28).

The court proceedings have been suspended since last month (Oct) after her legal representatives resigned en masse to protest against a court's decision to extend her detention for six months.

Three days after the court decision, Park lashed out at the judiciary and the prosecution in a rare courtroom speech, saying they were not being fair with her case.

She said she has been made a victim of political revenge and would refuse to stand trial in future, reported Yonhap news agency.

Five public attorneys were assigned to take her case, but none of them have been able to meet her to discuss the case, reported local media.

Justice authorities say if the former president continues to boycott the trial, she will be tried in absentia, reported The Korea Herald.

In the biggest political scandal to hit South Korea in decades, Park was impeached and removed from office in March over a graft scandal involving big businesses such as Samsung and Lotte.

The first-born of South Korea's revered strongman leader Park Chun Hee, Park became the country's first female president after she won the 2012 presidential elections.

Following her impeachment, Park was indicted in April over a string of charges, including bribery, abuse of power, leaking of state secrets and colluding with her confidante Choi Soon Sil to extort millions from South Korean conglomerates . Choi, who is also facing trial, has denied the charges.

A Realmeter survey of 501 people showed that South Koreans view Park's impeachment as president as the biggest issue of the year (2017) with 47.6 per cent of the respondents picking her downfall as the issue of the year.

It was followed by the launch in May of the Moon Jae In government (16.9 per cent of respondents picking this as the issue of the year); North Korea's nuclear test in September (8.7 per cent); China's retaliation over the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence missile system ( 7.7 per cent); and the magnitude-5.4 earthquake in the south-eastern city of Pohang (7.3 per cent) and the subsequent postponement of the nationwide college entrance exam ( 7.3 per cent).

"Former president Park's impeachment was found to be the No. 1 issue" regardless of region, age bracket, political party affiliation or ideological orientation, Realmeter said.

The survey, commissioned by local broadcaster CBS, was conducted on Nov 24 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, reported Yonhap on Monday (Nov 27).

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