(ATTN: UPDATES with details of hearing in paras 1-5, 7; CHANGES headline)
SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Constitutional Court held its first open hearing Tuesday to determine the fate of President Park Geun-hye following her impeachment over a corruption scandal involving her and her longtime friend.
Park, who has had her presidential powers suspended until a decision is made by the court, did not appear before the nine-member bench in a widely anticipated move.
|This photo, taken on Jan. 2, 2017, shows the Constitutional Court (front) and the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in the background. (Yonhap)|
Court President Park Han-chul closed the session nine minutes after it began, citing Park's absence.
"We will do our best to conduct a strict and fair review of the impeachment case," he said.
The first oral argument in the impeachment case has been postponed to the second hearing to be held Thursday. Should Park fail to show up again, he added that the trial will proceed through a proxy.
Park was impeached by the National Assembly on Dec. 9 over her alleged involvement in a string of suspected crimes committed by Choi Soon-sil. Choi, a daughter of Park's late mentor Choi Tae-min, has been accused of abusing her ties to the president to gain various business and personal favors despite having no position in the government.
Park has denied all of the allegations against her, saying she only received simple advice from Choi and carried out her presidential duties faithfully.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, her legal representative Lee Joong-hwan said she is unlikely to attend future hearings "unless there are special circumstances."
The key issues under review are whether Park violated the people's sovereignty and the rule of law, abused her power, infringed on the freedom of the press, neglected her duty to protect the right to life, and took part in bribery and other crimes.
Currently, two additional hearings have been scheduled for Thursday and next Tuesday, during which some of the key suspects in the case have been asked to appear before the court. They include Choi; An Chong-bum, former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination; and Jeong Ho-seong, former secretary for private presidential affairs.
The court has 180 days to decide whether to unseat or reinstate Park. In the meantime, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is serving as the country's acting president.
Peter Joe email@example.com
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