South Korean President Refuses To Attend Impeachment Trial

Nearly a month following a legislative vote of impeachment, South Korean President Park Geun-hye is refusing to attend and testify at her impeachment trial that began Tuesday.

The fate of whether or not Park keeps her powers — currently suspended — lies in the hands of the country’s Constitutional Court, which has until June to make a decision. Should the court determine to remove Park from her seat, a new president must be elected within 60 days.

The president’s no-show Tuesday resulted in a convening that wrapped in nine minutes.

Park’s lawyer, Lee Joong-hwan, told local media this week that she would not be attending the proceedings “unless there is an exceptionally special reason to do so.”

Park’s representatives pointed to the precedent set by former president Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, who also did not attend his impeachment trial. Roh wound up reinstated by the court. If removed, Park would become the first impeached South Korean president in history.

The court has extended its next invitation for Thursday, on which former and current Blue House aides are also expected to testify. It has the right to proceed by law if Park does not show for a second time.

The trial comes two days after Park publicly denied charges against her in front of a group of reporters at the Blue House, an act that Kwon Seong-dong, chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the National Assembly, criticized Tuesday. “If she had anything to say, she should have appeared at court, out of courtesy for the judges,” Kwon said, according to the New York Times.

The National Assembly’s charges against Park include accusations of involvement in a $69 million extortion scheme from South Korean businesses with her old friend Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a cult leader, of neglecting her duty during the 2014 Sewol ferry tragedy, and of oppression of the free press.