Prosecutors have summoned ex-President Park Geun-hye to question her over allegations that she colluded with her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil to extort vast slush funds.
Park has refused to submit to questioning since the scandal broke in October but can no longer shelter behind the immunity of high office.
"We notified Park's lawyers that she has to appear at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday," a prosecution spokesman said Wednesday morning.
Her lawyers, who have so far done everything in their power to stall the investigation, said Tuesday they will cooperate. One of them, Sohn Beom-gyu, admitted she is now "the same as any other citizen" and added that she will "obey the law."
Although Park is the first democratically elected president to be ousted from office, she will be the fourth to be questioned by prosecutors. Ex-presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were both convicted of corruption and Roh Moo-hyun was questioned over the same charges but killed himself before he could be indicted.
Prosecutors are eager to avoid suspicions that they are treating Park with kid gloves, even though the Cheong Wa Dae shredders have had since at least October to destroy the paper trail.
Preparations for questioning are practically complete since both the first team of prosecutors and the independent counsel already sought to question Park in November and February. A prosecution source told reporters, "We will focus on the key allegations in order to complete questioning in a single session."
But lawmakers in the rump ruling party who remain loyal to Park are already claiming that prosecutors are rushing the investigation.
There are also hints that Park will try to keep stalling. Ex-Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Min Kyung-wook, who volunteered to be her spokesman after her ouster, told the Chosun Ilbo that the ex-president has "no official position" on the investigation.
Asked about the pledge by Park's lawyers that she will now cooperate, Min said, "That’s their view" and added that Park herself has not commented.
In a half-hearted public apology on Nov. 4, Park promised to cooperate not only with prosecutors, but with the independent counsel as well, but she reneged on both promises.
A prosecution source, asked what steps will be taken if Park keeps obstructing the probe, said, "This is not the time to comment on that matter."
Police guard ex-President Park Geun-hye's house in Samseong-dong, Seoul on Tuesday.
News equipment is set up in front of the Supreme Prosecutors Office in Seocho, Seoul on Tuesday.