Park was indicted
in a Dec. 9 parliamentary vote by a wider-than-expected margin
after being accused of colluding with a friend to pressure big
businesses to make contributions to non-profit foundations
backing presidential initiatives.
Park, whose father ruled the country for 18 years after seizing
power in a 1961 coup, has denied wrongdoing but apologised for
carelessness in her ties with the friend, Choi Soon-sil, who is
facing her own trial.
Neither Park nor Choi appeared in court on Thursday when judges
decided to admit prosecutors' investigation documents, in an
early setback for Park's defence team, which had tried to block
Although stripped of her presidential powers, which are being
wielded by the prime minister, Park retains her title and her
She is serving a single five-year term which is set to end in
February 2018, and has presidential immunity but risks facing
prosecution after leaving office.
Park's popularity has sunk to near record lows since the
influence-peddling scandal blew up, but many South Koreans
already had doubts about her leadership, partly because of a
2014 ferry disaster in which 300 people, most of them school
children, were killed.
The Court raised that accident on Thursday, asking that Park
account for her activities during a seven-hour period when the
disaster was unfolding, and when her critics believe she was
"We request the claimee report where she was in the Blue House,
during the seven hours that has become an issue, exactly what
work she was engaged in," one of the court's nine judges, Lee
Jinsung, said, referring to the presidential compound in the
The court also identified Park's friend, Choi, and two former
Blue House officials, An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong, as
witnesses in the hearing.
Park's lawyers said earlier the vote to impeach her had no legal
basis and the court should throw the case out.
The court said it would hold the next preparatory hearing on
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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