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POSTED | 22:25 PM | 20-03-2017

Park turns to loyalists for defense

A lawyer known as her “bullet-proof vest” is on former South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s legal team. So are two failed candidates for parliament from her ruling party.

Park has turned to a group of loyalists for her legal defense as she faces questioning on Tuesday from prosecutors as a criminal suspect in a widening corruption probe that has already cost her the presidency, Reuters reported on Monday (March 20, 2017).

Her legal lineup is a stark contrast to the star-studded team assembled by Samsung Group head, Jay Y. Lee, who is on trial on charges of bribing Park. They include high-powered former prosecutors now with one of the country’s top law firms, Bae, Kim & Lee, known for its litigation expertise.

Park has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged in the case. She could face more than 10 years in jail if convicted of receiving bribes from Lee and other “chaebol” bosses in return for favors in the scandal.

Park, 65, became the first democratically elected leader to be removed from office when the Constitutional Court on March 10 upheld her December impeachment by parliament. Park’s lawyers said she would cooperate with the prosecutors.

“I know and believe that Park is innocent, even if the press and the world have made her look like a criminal,” Sohn Bum-kyu, one of the seven lawyers appointed by the former leader, told Reuters.

Sohn is a one-term member of parliament who Park personally campaigned for in his losing bid for a second term in 2012. He has not worked as a prosecutor or as a judge, normally part of the resume when establishing an influential private practice.

Among her officially appointed team of seven lawyers, three have previously been prosecutors, but none of them in senior posts -- a departure from the usual pedigree of lawyers defending high-profile persons in South Korea criminal trials.

Sohn said the legal team is bigger than that.

“There are more lawyers behind President Park Geun-hye and seven appointed lawyers, but they did not want to be known because they don’t want to go through hard times in media,” Sohn said.

Yoo Yeong-ha, known as her “Bulletproof Vest” and who has been Park’s legal voice since the beginning of the scandal in October, is also on the legal team.

Yoo was a legal adviser to Park’s Saenuri Party, standing for parliament three times under its banner, and losing each time. He was seen visiting Park’s residence several times last week carrying a briefcase, but did not respond to reporters upon arrival and departure and declined to comment for this story.

Yoo, who has called Park his political mentor, said in an interview with Reuters in December he did not hesitate for a moment when offered the job as her lawyer. “I have complete faith in the president.”

 

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