SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — South Korean prosecutors investigating a scandal embroiling impeached President Park Geun-hye planned to summon a former presidential secretary tasked with inspecting senior government officials and overseeing the intelligence and prosecutorial agencies.
Woo Byung-soo, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, will be called in as a suspect on Saturday for charges of abuse of power, Lee Kyu-chul, spokesman of the special prosecutors, told a press briefing Friday.
Woo, who served in the post monitoring senior officials over corruption and supervising the prosecution and the intelligence agency, is suspected of abusing his power to obstruct investigation into the 2014 maritime disaster.
The passenger ferry Sewol capsized and sank off the country’s southwest coast on April 16, 2014, claiming lives of 304 passengers, mostly high school students on a school trip to the southern resort island of Jeju.
The botched rescue operations in the tragic incident are subject to the special prosecutors’ investigation under a law that was passed in the parliament to enable the launch of the independent counsel team.
The career prosecutor may not be responsible for the ferry sinking, but he is suspected of trying to influence the state prosecutors’ probe into the coast guard to protect President Park, who had apparently been missing during the first seven hours when the ferry was sinking.
Spokesman Lee said possibility was high for Woo to be charged with the dereliction of duty in addition to abuse of power.
Woo is suspected of neglecting his duty to inspect high-level officials by deliberately conniving at President Park’s longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil’s intervention in state affairs behind the scenes.
It is alleged that his mother-in-law and Chio have maintained close relationship for long, and that his promotion to the senior presidential secretary was influenced by Choi who is at the center of the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park.