Former president Park Geun-hye hired a total of 14 lawyers to defend her in the huge political scandal that led to her impeachment — and now incarceration.
“How did Park Geun-hye manage her colossal legal fees? By not paying her lawyers,” broadcaster TV Chosun reported on Sunday, citing anonymous sources. An unnamed “member of the legal profession” allegedly claimed, “If Park paid them properly she would’ve had to give each lawyer at least 200 million won (approximately 180,000 U.S dollars).”
“I did it as a public service right from the start,” said Suh Suk-gu, one of Park’s Fourteen. “She can’t afford to pay all those legal fees. I took on the job to protect the country.”
Suh, who defended Park during her impeachment proceedings, joined the now-former president’s legal team last December — she was impeached by the National Assembly on Dec. 9.
Suh’s office is in the politically conservative city of Daegu, a former Park Geun-hye stronghold some 300 km southeast of Seoul. Until the Constitutional Court officially threw Park out of office on Mar. 10, Suh commuted to Seoul at least three times a week for trials, meetings and pro-Park rallies. When he wasn’t in the capital, he often worked past midnight in his office in Daegu, he said. For all this work he received what he calls “money for actual expenses,” such as printing and transportation costs.
Suh claimed not to have received any other legal fees, and didn’t say how much he would normally charge for other customers that weren’t heads of state.
“I’m pretty sure all the other lawyers were also working with a ‘public service’ mindset,” Suh said. “The [former] president is upright and clean. She has no money. We all felt we were defending the president in order to defend the nation.”
According to a report by the Ministry of Interior in March, Park’s official assets amounted to 35 billion won in 2017, or over three million dollars.
Suh worked solely on Park’s impeachment case for the past few months, going what he called “all in.” The lawyer has had a high-profile career: He is the real-life character behind the judge in The Attorney, a biopic of late president Roh Moo-hyun. In the film, Suh’s character is portrayed as shady and corrupt, but he ultimately — and grudgingly — acquits the group of students brutally tortured over false accusations of supporting North Korea. Lately, Suh has said he regrets this judgment. He also raised eyebrows recently by claiming that the candlelight vigils against Park were “led by North Korea sympathizers.”
Park Geun-hye is currently held in the same detention center as Choi Soon-sil, her problematic confidante, and Samsung Vice President Lee Jae-yong, who is also a criminal suspect in this massive corruption scandal. Park faces 13 charges in total, including bribery, abuse of power and the leaking of state secrets. It is not clear what will become of her legal team, which is now officially composed of nine lawyers (not including Suh).
Cover Image: Oblivious to what the future will hold, then-presidential candidate Park Geun-hye solicited donations on behalf of the Salvation Army in Seoul in December 2012. (Source: Park Geun-hye’s Official Album)
Haeryun Kang wrote this radar report.