South Korean President Park Geun-hye missed the second hearing of her impeachment trial Thursday, forcing Seoul's Constitutional Court to proceed without her.
During the hearing on January 3, which was attended by all nine of the court justices for the first time since the National Assembly passed the motion for Park's impeachment on December 9, 2016, Court President Park used a saying derived from four Chinese characters to express the attitude the court had adopted toward the trial.
With Park refusing to appear today, the nine-justice court asked her to testify on Thursday.
Lawyer Lee Joong-hwan, another member of Park's legal delegation, pleaded her innocence of all accusations, particularly bribery and the undue power she allegedly allowed Choi in state affairs. Last year, Park initially said she would cooperate with the probe, but later rejected repeated requests by the prosecution for face-to-face questioning.
"Dismissing the president is aimed not only at recovering the national loss and vacuum in the running of state affairs but at restoring the constitutional order", Rep. Kwon Seong-dong, chairman of the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee, said, while calling on the justices to permanently remove Park from office. "President Park didn't know that Choi was effectively in control of the foundations".
They urged the court to overturn the impeachment vote, saying the motion had been based on "likelihood at best" and insisted she be reinstated as president immediately. Witnesses are due in court for the first time today.
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Park's lawyers denied the National Assembly's argument that Choi was a part of a secret inner circle with strong influence over the president.
Her Danish lawyer, Jan Schneider, said Chung denied any wrongdoing and that an appeal of her four-week detention had been filed. The court summoned An Bong-geun and Lee Jae-man, former presidential secretaries, and two staffers, Lee Yeong-seon and Yun Jeon-chu. The failure of a number of Park aides to appear for testimony also slowed the proceedings. Park's approval rating dropped to just 4 percent and a recent poll found that 80 percent of South Koreans support her impeachment. Choi told the court she is "facing much unfairness".
The president, whose powers have been suspended pending a ruling by the court, can not be legally forced to attend the hearings.
He said she had to be kicked out of the presidency to fix the damage she had caused to the country's democracy.
The judicial review process is being conducted as a trial where Park and her lawyers can mount her defense and prosecutors representing the National Assembly can make the case for her removal from office. "Since the defendant has not appeared, we are forced to delay the hearing pursuant to the Constitutional Court Act".