1st Impeachment Hearing Ends After 9 Minutes

Choi Soon-sil

Only after confirming the disputed facts, which constitute the reasons of impeachment, may the top court move on to its legal judgment process and decide whether or not to oust the president as demanded by the legislature. "We will do our best to ensure an utterly fair and appropriate trial".

Other key suspects, including Park's longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil and former presidential aides An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong are expected to testify in later hearings. The National Assembly voted in 2004 to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun, but the Constitutional Court reinstated him, ruling that his violations of election law were too minor to justify ending his presidency.

Confirming her absence, the nine-member bench proceeded to hear the oral arguments by Park's lawyers and the National Assembly that impeached her on December 9 over an alleged corruption scandal involving her close friend.

The late liberal president, when facing his impeachment trial in 2004 over an alleged breach of political neutrality, acknowledged the facts listed in his impeachment resolution, allowing the court to jump to its normative judgment.

Park is immune from criminal charges while she remains in office.

That trial, where the court must ratify or overturn a parliamentary impeachment vote, began despite Ms Park's absence.

Ms Park rejected requests by state prosecutors to question her and has yet to be questioned by the special prosecution team that has taken over the inquiry.

As NPR's Elise Hu has reported, prosecutors say Park "conspired in a multimillion-dollar extortion scheme, led by her close friend and spiritual adviser, Choi Soon-sil" and that Choi "enjoyed extraordinary power to make decisions in state affairs, despite holding no official position".

Separately, a judge in Denmark told the Associated Press that she was considering legal action against South Korean journalists who illegally filmed Ms Choi's daughter in court despite repeated orders not to do so. She did so again on Sunday, in a meeting with South Korean reporters at the presidential Blue House, arguing that the allegations against her had been fabricated. She also said Samsung took back a horse and auto it had provided her.

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