Speculation of boycott after South Korean ex-president Park Geun Hye skips court trial

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

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former President Park Geun Hye's refusal to appear at her trial due to health reasons has sparked speculation that she may boycott her trial in protest or as a political ploy.

On Wednesday (Oct 18), the Seoul Detention Centre, where Park has remained in custody since her arrest on March 31, relayed her statement that she could not attend her trial on Thursday to the Seoul Central District Court.

In the handwritten statement, which was faxed to the court, Park cited health reasons for her inability to attend the hearing, the 81st in the trial and the first since her lawyers resigned on Monday.

With Park absent from the hearing, the court said that it will begin the process of selecting a court-appointed lawyer for the former president. According to reports, the court had planned to confirm whether Park intends to reorganise her defence team at Thursday's hearing.

On Monday, Park appeared in court for the first time after her detention warrant was extended for six months, and claimed that she was a victim of political retribution. On the same day, her lawyers resigned, saying that they are unable to conduct their duties in an unfair trial.

The move, which is considered disadvantageous to Park, has been seen by many as a ploy to rally her supporters.

At the time, she said that the six months she spent in custody had been a "wretched and sad" time and that she had "lost all my honour and my life."

Denying all allegations against her, Park said that she believes her innocence has been proven through the trial and that she could not accept the court's decision to hold her in custody for another six months.

"(I) have arrived at the conclusion that (my) trust in the court to withstand political influence and the pressure of public opinion to conduct the trial according to the Constitution and (the judges') conscience no longer has any meaning," Park said, adding that she now places the trial in the hands of the judges.

"(I) may have to go through even harder times. However, I will not give up because there are people who believe and support me, and as I believe that the truth will come to light."

Park's supporters maintain that she was framed and that there is a conspiracy among lawmakers, the judiciary and other forces behind her impeachment.

Chief among them is Representative Cho Won Jin of the Patriotic Party of Korea, who is currently on a hunger strike in protest against Park's extended arrest. His party has rallied the former president's supporters to take to the streets on Saturday.

"President Park has declared the collapse of constitutionalism, and declared (that she will) fight," the party said in a public announcement calling for her supporters to join Saturday's demonstration.

The party was formed by Cho, the sole lawmaker and co-chair of the party, after he was expelled from the Saenuri Party in July. The Saenuri Party, of which Cho was a founding member, in turn was formed after the party of the same name led by Park was dismantled in the founding of the Liberty Korea Party and Bareun Party.

Saturday's demonstration, dubbed "Taegeukgi rally" after the Korean national flag that participants carry like banners at their rallies, is projected to see several thousand Park supporters congregating in central Seoul.