Why South Korea's Ousted President Faces Arrest: QuickTake Q&A

Korea Votes on Park's Impeachment

It’s getting worse for the deposed South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Barely three weeks after the nation’s Constitutional Court upheld a parliamentary motion to impeach her, prosecutors gained permission to arrest Park over allegations that she abused her powers and colluded with her longtime friend and former aides to get bribes from top businesses.

1. Why the arrest?

Government attorneys cited the gravity of Park’s alleged crimes and said it was reasonable and lawful to detain her because there’s a risk that she would destroy evidence, since she continues to deny wrongdoing. In South Korea, prosecutors must make their case for an arrest warrant to a court; Seoul Central District Court granted the warrant after a March 30 hearing.

2. What happens next?

Prosecutors will have as long as 19 days to consider whether to indict Park. They had questioned the 65-year-old for 14 hours on March 21 after she lost her presidential immunity. Several associates of Park are already on trial for their role in the scandal that brought down the nation’s first female president. Park, who was waiting for the court decision at the prosecutors’ office, was taken to the Seoul Detention Center where Samsung’s Jay Y. Lee and Park’s long-time friend Choi Soon-sil are being held.

3. What are the allegations?

Park abused her presidential position and received bribes from companies, according to prosecutors. They allege that she infringed on the freedom of corporate management and leaked classified information. Prosecutors argue that she pressured top business executives to donate tens of millions of dollars to foundations run by Choi in return for government favors. They also allege that she colluded with Choi to seek bribes from Samsung Group’s heir apparent Lee in return for business favors. Choi and Lee are in detention as their trials proceed, and both deny wrongdoing.

4. What does Park say?

She denies allegations that she sought to take bribes through Choi or violated the constitution by relying on a private citizen for presidential affairs.

5. How did it come to this?

As the influence-peddling scandal unfolded, millions of people took to the streets to call for Park’s resignation and arrest. Park was suspended in December and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has since served as interim leader. In upholding parliament’s decision to impeach her, the constitutional court said March 10 that Park abused her presidential powers for the personal gain of Choi.

6. Who is Choi?

Choi is the daughter of a man who ran a little-known religious sect and founded an anti-communist group that Park helped run. The two women formed a friendship when Park became acting first lady for her father, Park Chung-hee, after her mother died during a botched assassination attempt on the dictator in 1974. Park has long been hounded by allegations that she allowed the Chois to take advantage of her high profile to extract money from businesses -- claims she denied.

7. When will Koreans get to vote?

An election for the next president is scheduled for May 9. Left-leaning candidates including Moon Jae-in -- Park’s main opponent when she won office in 2012 -- are leading in polls.

The Reference Shelf

  • A QuickTake explainer on the problems with South Korea’s family-run conglomerates.
  • QuickTake Q&As on the Samsung allegations and China’s anger with South Korea.
  • An explainer on how the ties between Park and the Choi family began.
  • A list of 10 South Korean figures considered potential presidential runners next year.
  • A Time magazine story on Park’s life.
  • Park’s profile on the presidential website.
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