Former President Park Geun-hye stared straight ahead in court Tuesday at the start of a criminal trial that could send South Korea's first female leader to prison for life. Police escorted Park, in handcuffs with her eyes downcast, into court for her first public appearance since she was jailed on March 31 based on the corruption allegations that led to her removal from office. Cameras flashed as Park emerged from a bus, her inmate number 503 attached to her dark-colored jacket, and walked into the Seoul Central District Court, where she sat before a three-judge panel. When Judge Kim Se-yun asked Park, "What is your occupation?" she replied: "I don't have any occupation." Her longtime confidante, and the woman she is accused of conspiring with, Choi Soon-sil, sat near Park, reports the AP.
The two had been friends for four decades but did not acknowledge each other. Choi sobbed as she answered questions about her address and occupation. But Park stared straight ahead as prosecutors read out the charges. Park's lawyer denied any wrongdoing. Asked whether she had anything to add, Park said in a calm, measured voice: "I will say afterward." The judge also directly asked Park whether she denies all charges. "Yes," Park replied, "I have the same position as the lawyers." The most damning allegation is that Park colluded with Choi to take tens of millions in bribes from Samsung. The judges are expected to decide whether to try Park and Choi together or to split their cases. Park's lawyers have alleged the combined hearings could create bias. The AP has much more here. (Read more Park Geun-hye stories.)