South Korean prosecutors blocked from searching president's office

South Korean prosecutors blocked from searching president's officeSouth Korean prosecutors, attempted to search the presidential Blue House Friday in connection with the scandal surrounding impeached president Park Geun-hye, were stopped by security guards, according to The Voice of America.

The prosecutors were armed with a court-issued search warrant for the presidential compound. The Blue House said, however, that while the president is willing to hand over documents and other materials, it is not legally possible for the lawyers to search the premises because of a law banning searches in areas where there are military and other official secrets.

Under the country's law, military facilities and other areas that handle confidential information cannot be searched without approval from the person in charge of the location. Yet, the law also prohibits the person from refusing to grant such consent unless it infringes upon key national interests.

State prosecutors, who handed over the case to the independent counsel last year, attempted to raid the office twice but were halted by the presidential office. The office, instead, voluntarily turned over some documents requested by the prosecutors.

“We are thinking of making an official request to the acting president for cooperation that the Blue House’s denial of the search is inappropriate,” said Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn became the acting president after Park’s impeachment.

Park is accused of colluding with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to force or bribe Korean conglomerates to donate more than $65 million to two dubious foundations, while at the same time funneling some of the funds and lucrative side contracts to companies owned by herself and her friends. Both Park and Choi deny wrongdoing.

The Constitutional Court is reviewing the impeachment motion, a process that can take up to six months. If the court affirms the motion, a new presidential election will be scheduled within two months of the ruling.

In December, the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to impeach Park on charges of abuse of power, bribery and infringement of press freedom in connection with the alleged multimillion dollar influence peddling scandal.
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