0119 GMT September 23, 2019
The court’s first preparatory hearing on the high-profile case convened on Thursday.
South Korean lawmakers had voted by a large margin to impeach Park on December 9.
The first female president of the East Asian country has been accused of involvement in an influence-peddling case, in which she allegedly colluded with a long-time confidante Choi Soon-sil to pressure major corporations to contribute money to non-profit foundations that supported presidential initiatives.
Park did not appear in the Thursday hearing, during which the judges also decided to admit for consideration documents prepared by prosecutors — an early setback for Park’s defense team, which had tried to block them.
Park, whose father ruled South Korea for 18 years after seizing power in a 1961 coup, has denied misconduct in the case but nevertheless apologized for being careless in her ties with Choi, who is facing her own trial.
If the Constitutional Court confirms the impeachment vote, a process for which it has 180 days, Park will become the first elected president in the country to be forced out of office.
Her popularity has drastically declined to near record lows since the corruption scandal came to light, though some South Koreans had already held doubts about her leadership, partly because of a 2014 ferry disaster in which 300 people, mostly school children, lost their lives.
The Court pointed to that accident on Thursday, asking that Park account for her activities in the course of a seven-hour period when the disaster was unfolding, prompting her critics to accuse her of being negligent.
“We request the claimee report where she was in the Blue House during the seven hours that has become an issue, exactly what work she was engaged in,” said one of the court’s nine judges, Lee Jinsung.
The court said it would hold the next preparatory hearing on December 27.
Former aides to Park have also been charged and await trial in the case involving Choi.