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South Korea President Park avoids impeachment court hearing

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has not turned up to testify in a court case which will decide her future. The president was impeached over a multifaceted corruption scandal in December.

The Constitutional Court hearing on Tuesday lasted about nine minutes before being wrapped up, as Park had stayed away.

The chief prosecutor at the trail, lawmaker Kweon Seong Dong, questioned why Park did not defend herself in court when just days ago she rejected accusations of misconduct in a meeting with reporters. 

"It's not good etiquette to the justices and also inappropriate for the president, as the defendant of the impeachment trial, to say this and that to the media outside of court," Kweon told reporters.

The court had previously ruled that Park was not required to appear for questioning, though it did request that she testify when the hearing resumes Thursday. Some of her current and former aides were also scheduled to testify then. The case will proceed with or without her there.

Graft accusations

South Korea's parliament voted in December to impeach Park, who has been caught up in a wide-ranging corruption scandal. She is accused of colluding with longtime friend and confidant Choi Soon-sil to secure large donations from big companies for foundations controlled by Choi.

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South Korea political scandal takes new twist

It is also alleged that Choi was able to exert influence on the government despite holding no official position. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in weekly protests to demand Park step down immediately. Park denies the allegations against her.

Choi has been called the "female Rasputin" of her country and is facing her own trial for coercion and abuse of power. Her 20-year-old daughter, equestrian athlete Chung Yoo-ra, was arrested on Sunday in Denmark. Seoul prosecutors were seeking her formal extradition. The allegations surrounding Chung include that she received preferential treatment at the elite Ewha Women's University.

Park has been suspended from executive duties while the impeachment investigation is under way. The county is being led in the mean time by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn. The Constitutional Court has up to six months to decide whether to reinstate Park or confirm her removal from office. If she is ousted, an election for a new president must be held within two months.

se/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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