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South Korea’s Blue House Blocks Prosecutors’ Search

Police officers stand guard near the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 3, 2017. South Korean officials Friday turned away prosecutors trying to search the president's mountainside compound, a confrontation that highlights the tensions of

South Korean prosecutors attempted to search the presidential Blue House Friday in connection with the scandal surrounding impeached president Park Geun-hye, but they were stopped by security guards.

The prosecutors were armed with a court-issued search warrant for the presidential compound. The Blue House said, however, that while the president is willing to hand over documents and other materials, it is not legally possible for the lawyers to search the premises because of a law banning searches in areas where there are military and other official secrets.

“We are thinking of making an official request to the acting president for cooperation that the Blue House’s denial of the search is inappropriate,” said Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn became the acting president after Park’s impeachment.

Park is accused of colluding with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to force or bribe Korean conglomerates to donate more than $65 million to two dubious foundations, while at the same time funneling some of the funds and lucrative side contracts to companies owned by herself and her friends. Both Park and Choi deny wrongdoing.

The Constitutional Court is reviewing the impeachment motion, a process that can take up to six months. If the court affirms the motion, a new presidential election will be scheduled within two months of the ruling.

In December, the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to impeach Park on charges of abuse of power, bribery and infringement of press freedom in connection with the alleged multimillion dollar influence peddling scandal.