South Korea’s special prosecutor investigating a corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye said on Sunday it had no choice but to raid the presidential offices, Yonhap News reported.
Special prosecutors are investigating allegations that Park colluded with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, and aides to pressure big companies to contribute to foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.
Prosecutors say they need access to the presidential offices as part of their investigation. The office has denied access.
Park has immunity from prosecution as long as she is in office even though her powers are suspended. Yonhap gave no further details.
The news came less than 24 hours after around 200,000 South Koreans took to the streets of central Seoul for the ninth weekend in a row to demand Park’s immediate resignation.
Like previous rallies, the event was held in a festive mood, with music and speeches from a stage set up in a large square a few blocks from the presidential Blue House.
“It’ll be a Merry Christmas if Park Geun-hye steps down!” the crowd chanted.
Park’s impeachment, for violating her constitutional duty as leader, is being reviewed by the Constitutional Court which has up to 180 days from the December 9 impeachment to decide whether to uphold it or reinstate Park.
Earlier on Saturday, a special prosecutor probing the scandal summoned a friend of Park at the center of the crisis, Choi Soon-sil, for questioning on charges including bribery and embezzlement, according to an official.
Choi and former presidential aides were charged in November with abuse of power and fraud.
The special prosecutor, with a large team of investigators, has taken over the investigation from government prosecutors.
Choi, wearing a grey prison uniform and a surgical mask, was brought in to the special prosecutor’s office from a jail where she is in detention, pushed by a throng of correctional officers through a media scrum.
At a court hearing on December 19, Choi denied all charges against her, including fraud and abuse of power.
The special prosecutor has up to 100 days to investigate allegations that Park colluded with Choi and her aides to pressure big conglomerates to contribute 77 billion won (US$64 million) to foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.
Park has denied wrongdoing but apologized for carelessness in her ties with Choi.