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Park's defense team scores an own goal

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09.01.2017
By Michael Breen

Lawyers representing President Park Geun-hye made some good points in the impeachment hearings at the Constitutional Court last week that anyone who cares about democracy should bear in mind.

But then they scored an own goal.

First, the good points.

Park's lawyers argued against all the charges that the National Assembly had listed to justify last month's decision to impeach, saying they were based on allegations that lacked clear evidence.

For example, they said, there was no evidence she ordered the National Pension Service to vote in favor of the merger of two Samsung Group subsidiaries as part of a deal to secure Samsung funding for two foundations set up by her friend, Choi Soon-sil, the lady at the center of the scandal.

Yes, she did ask chaebol to donate to the foundations, but such requests are normal practice and in the national interest as the foundations were part of a policy to promote Korean sports and culture.

Regardless of what people think about Park as a president, if there is no objective evidence to prove she is guilty on these and the other specific points directly related to the impeachment case, the court must rule against the Assembly and allow her to return to work.

She cannot be impeached because people "feel" she is guilty.

You would expect the National Assembly prosecution panel to have anticipated this line of reasoning and produced some evidence to back its case. But it didn't. Instead, the panel, led by ruling Saenuri Party Representative Kwon Seong-dong, simply repeated the allegations.

The President allowed Choi to interfere in state affairs by appointing top personnel, Kwon said; she failed to "protect the lives of the people," as required by the Constitution when the Sewol ferry sank in 2014, he added.

On the chaebol donations, Kwon made this unusual claim: "Park's alleged forcing fundraising from conglomerates shows she abused her power for personal benefit, which means she is unqualified to lead the state." I wasn't there and I don't know if he actually said this or whether the reporter got it mixed up. But if something is "alleged," it doesn't prove anything.

The absence of hard evidence makes the impeachment a.....