President Park Geun-hye speaks to reporters at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on the first day of New Year. [Photo by Cheong Wa Dae]
President Park Geun-hye broke her silence on Sunday about 20 days after a parliamentary impeachment motion in December, vehemently denying she had played a role in pressuring the National Pension Fund to back a merger in 2015 of two affiliates of Samsung Group, a deal that would make her liable in the bribery case independent counsel has been building and also decisively influence the Constitutional Court’s impeachment review.
“I have been completely framed. The thought of favoring another never crossed my mind,” Park said during a sudden tea time she hosted for correspondents for the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae on New Year’s Day. She has been suspended from pubic office after impeachment on Dec. 9 but retains the title until Constitutional Court delivers its deliberation on the validity of the motion.
The remark comes on the heels of the appearance of Moon Hyung-pyo, the arrested chief of the National Pension Service (NPS), before the special probe team`s office in southern Seoul to undergo questioning over suspicions of his role in the merger between Samsung C&T Corp. and Cheil Industries Inc., the affiliates of the country`s largest family-run business group, while working as the health minister.
Park said “the Samsung merger was keenly watched by the nation that time and many thought that a failure in this deal due to attacks from a hedge fund would be detrimental to the national interest. Nevertheless, I have never given an order to help Samsung.”
Special prosecutors are investigating the allegations that Cheong Wa Dae pressured the state fund, which owned an 11.6 percent stake in Samsung C&T and a 5 percent stake in Cheil Industries, to support the conglomerate in return for the handsome donations Samsung gave to the president`s close friend Choi Soon-sil. Park also refused to comply with earlier probe by state prosecutors. Choi, currently in custody, is under trial over a string of corruption charges where President Park was named accomplice by state prosecutors.
By Nam Gi-hyun
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