South Korea’s presidential office denies access to investigators

South Korean parliamentary investigators looking into an influence-peddling scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment will not get access to her official residence, a Blue House official said on Friday, citing national security.

Later on Friday, the Blue House is due to submit to the country’s Constitutional Court the president’s response to last week’s impeachment vote in parliament, which the court has up to 180 days to decide whether to uphold or overturn.

“They can’t come inside,” a Blue House official told reporters, declining to be identified.

“We haven’t changed our stance on that. We are in talks regarding where to meet, and what to do, if parliament’s special committee wants to hold an inspection.”

Although stripped of her presidential powers, now being wielded by the prime minister until the court ruling, Park retains her title and her official residence.

The presidential office has maintained that the Blue House cannot be inspected, because of national security concerns.

Park is accused of colluding with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil, who has been indicted and is in custody, to pressure big businesses to make contributions to non-profit foundations backing presidential initiatives.

The Blue House official also denied allegations it had ordered South Korea’s intelligence agency to spy on judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

“The Blue House has never spied on anybody and it’s something that should not happen,” he said of the allegations, made by a former media executive during a televised parliamentary panel hearing on Thursday.

On Friday, Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor in the case that could make Park South Korea’s first democratically-elected leader to be kicked out of office, told reporters the team would keep looking for legal grounds allowing it to enter the Blue House.

Park has presidential immunity while in office, but risks facing prosecution upon her departure. She has refused widespread calls to resign immediately, despite huge weekly protests and parliament’s overwhelming vote for impeachment. (Courtesy Reuters)