Special Probe Wraps Up 90 Days of Scandal and Fatigue

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After a tumultuous 90 days, the final press conference was short. Just fifteen minutes, no questions accepted. 

“It was a short time, but every day we gave it our passion and heart,” said Park Young-soo, the special prosecutor that led South Korea’s most prominent political probe for the past few months. He read a small portion of the long press release, around a hundred pages long, announcing the final results of the intensive probe, during which several investigators were hospitalized for the grueling, weekend-less work. 

“We apologize to the Korean people for not accomplishing all our goals,” said Park. He said the limited time frame and the lack of cooperation from “key subjects,” most likely a nod to president Park Geun-hye, prohibited the probe from accomplishing any more than half of what it aimed for. President Park, who is at the center of the country’s biggest impeachment scandal, refused to allow in-person and written questioning. 

The results announced in the press conference were not good news for the pro-Park camp. According to the probe, Park Geun-hye colluded with Choi Soon-sil to receive bribes from Samsung, who in turn received help in securing vice president Lee Jae-yong’s control over Samsung Group.

Special prosecutor Park also said that president Park worked with Choi, the president’s longtime confidante, to put together a blacklist of artists that were critical of the ruling administration. 

Members of the I Love Park Geun-hye fan club condemned the probe, saying that the special prosecution should be probed. Park Geun-hye’s legal team criticized Park Young-soo for being politically biased. 

The Park Geun-hye saga is a sad story that involves an unlikely cast of characters — Samsung, the Ministry of Culture, artists, various Blue House aides, and even Choi Soon-sil’s deceased father who is often mischaracterized as being South Korea’s “Rasputin” — but it will not be ending anytime soon. The investigations will now be handed back to the regular prosecutors. And Park Geun-hye — who has been named a criminal suspect by both the regular and special prosecutors — is awaiting the sentence on her impeachment, which the Constitutional Court will announce in the very near future. 

Cover Image Credit: @mediamongu

Haeryun Kang wrote this radar report.

Haeryun Kang is a freelance journalist based in Seoul and contributing editor at Korea Exposé.