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(LEAD) Park apologizes to public, vows to undergo questioning 'faithfully'

2017/03/21 09:38

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead, throughout with appearance of Park; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- Former President Park Geun-hye apologized to the public over an influence-peddling scandal as she arrived at the prosecutors' office on Tuesday to be questioned over a string of corruption allegations that removed her from office earlier this month.

Park appeared at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul at around 9:30 a.m. as a suspect over allegations of bribery, abuse of power, coercion and leak of government secrets.

"I feel sorry to the public," she said as she arrived at the prosecution. "I will faithfully go through the interrogation."

   The questioning, which could continue past midnight, will take place in the presence of one or two of her lawyers.

Park, the country's first democratically elected leader to be ousted, is suspected of colluding with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil in extorting money from local conglomerates.

Prosecutors are expected to grill Park over multiple charges, including that local business groups donated huge sums of money to two foundations allegedly controlled by Choi in return for business favors.

Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of Samsung Group, was arrested and indicted over suspicions of giving bribes to Choi, and in effect to Park. He has been flatly denying the charges.

Park has so far effectively rejected undergoing a direct investigation, but the Constitutional Court's decision to oust her earlier this month stripped her of the immunity that had protected her from criminal prosecution.

A number of former aides have been questioned and put on trials over their alleged involvement in the scandal in the meanwhile.

Park is the country's fourth former president to undergo questioning over criminal allegations, following Roh Tae-woo, Chun Doo-hwan and the late Roh Moo-hyun.

Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide in 2009 amid an investigation into allegations that his family members accepted illicit funds.

Reporters wait for former President Park Geun-hye at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in the capital on March 21, 2017, as she is set to appear for questioning. Park, dismissed by the Constitutional Court on March 10, faces a probe into 13 criminal allegations, including graft and abuse of power. (Yonhap) Reporters wait for former President Park Geun-hye at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in the capital on March 21, 2017, as she is set to appear for questioning. Park, dismissed by the Constitutional Court on March 10, faces a probe into 13 criminal allegations, including graft and abuse of power. (Yonhap)

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