Key figure in S.Korea political crisis appears at prosecutors’ office

31 Oct, 2016 2:05 pm

SEOUL – The woman at the centre of a South Korean political scandal appeared on Monday at the office of prosecutors investigating allegations she used her friendship with President Park Geun-hye to influence state affairs and benefit personally.

Choi Soon-sil, wearing a hat and scarf and covering her face with her hand, pushed her way through a crowd of journalists and people holding up signs demanding her arrest and Park’s resignation to enter the prosecution building in Seoul.

“Please forgive me,” said Choi, who lost a shoe in the scrum, according to pool reporters who followed her into the building’s entrance.

Choi returned to South Korea early on Sunday from Germany, where she had been staying, and was ready to answer prosecutors’ questions, her lawyer said earlier.

She had been under intense pressure to return as the political crisis engulfed Park over allegations that she allowed Choi to use her friendship to exert improper influence and reap benefits.

Thousands of South Koreans rallied on Saturday demanding Park’s resignation over the scandal. Angry Koreans say Park betrayed public trust and mismanaged the government, and has lost a mandate to lead.

Opposition parties have demanded a thorough investigation but have not raised the possibility of impeaching the president.

A public apology from Park last week for giving her friend access to draft speeches during the first months of her presidency did little to deflect demands that Park reveal the full nature of her ties with Choi and whether she enjoyed favours because of her friendship with the president.

Park, the daughter of a former president, Park Chung-hee, said she had consulted Choi with good intentions and Choi was someone “who gave me help when I was going through a difficult time”.

Choi, in her first comments after weeks of reports about her ties with Park, told a newspaper last week she did get drafts of Park’s speeches after Park’s election victory but denied she had access to other official material, or that she influenced state affairs or benefited financially.

Choi’s lawyer, Lee Kyung-jae, said outside the prosecutors’ office that Choi was in poor health and may be suffering from a heart condition, which he would discuss with prosecutors. -Reuters

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