South Korean special prosecutors on Monday said acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn has yet to respond to their calls over extending investigation into a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.
South Korea’s opposition parties urged Hwang to approve the extension while the ruling party said “it cannot be extended indefinitely.”
Also on Monday, the Constitutional Court urged Park to decide whether she will attend her final impeachment hearing.
Lee Kyu-chul, spokesman of the independent counsel team, which kicked off their investigation on Dec. 21, told a press briefing that it had yet to get a response from Hwang, who is serving as acting president following Park’s impeachment in early December.
The independent counsel team sent a letter to Hwang, who is also prime minister, last Thursday to ask for the extension.
Under a special law, the independent investigation is scheduled to close by the end of this month. However, with the acceptance of Hwang, the probe can be extended for up to 30 days.
The spokesman said that if Hwang gives a reply as rapidly as possible, the investigators can conduct an effective probe for the rest of the days allowed.
South Korea’s opposition parties on Monday urged Hwang to approve the extension, Yonhap news agency reported.
“Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn must remember if he does not approve the extension, he will face criticism that he blindly shields his companion,” head of the Democratic Party Representative Choo Mi-ae said, urging him to make a decision by Tuesday.
The four opposition parties agreed Sunday to seek a revision in the law to extend the deadline of the independent counsel team if Hwang refuses to approve an extension.
The ruling Liberty Korea Party, on the other hand, said that the opposition bloc is seeking to extend the probe for political reasons.
“The independent counsel should fulfill its duty within the time designated by the law,” Representative Chung Woo-taik, the floor leader of the Liberty Korea Party, said. “It cannot be extended indefinitely.”
Chung said the opposition bloc is only seeking to extend the probe to utilize it for the next presidential election.
Acting Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court Lee Jung-mi on Monday issued a call during the 15th hearing that was held in Park’s absence, saying her lawyers should stop stalling and should respond by Wednesday whether the president will attend the final session or not.
Depending on her decision, the court will determine whether to hold the final hearing Friday as planned, or postpone it to March 2 or 3 which was requested by the lawyers, Lee said.
Park’s lawyers made the request in a written statement to the court Saturday, citing their need for more time to prepare for the final defense and to consider Park’s own attendance at the hearing, Yonhap news agency reported.
Park’s ouster requires the approval of at least six of the court’s nine justices, but their number will be reduced to seven after the retirement of Lee Jung-mi on March 13. Chief Justice Park Han-chul retired at the end of last month after completing his six-year term.
For Park, chances of her reinstatement are higher after March 13 considering only two justices will have to reject her impeachment instead of three.
If Park is ousted, South Korea is required to hold a presidential by-election within 60 days. If she is reinstated, an election will be held in December as scheduled. Enditem