South Korea’s president hires a lawyer as prosecutors raid Samsung unit.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has hired a lawyer ahead of questioning by prosecutors over a political scandal that has engulfed her administration, her spokesman said on Tuesday.
Park, who would be the first sitting president to be interrogated in a criminal case, has seen her approval ratings plunge, with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to Seoul’s streets on Saturday demanding she resign.
The scandal centers on Park’s shadowy confidant Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of using her ties with the president to coerce major companies to donate millions of dollars to nonprofit foundations that Choi then used for personal gain.
Prosecutors on Sunday announced a plan to formally quiz Park this week over allegations she helped Choi extract money from the firms and allowed presidential aides to leak documents to Choi.
Park’s newly retained lawyer, YooYoung-ha, will discuss with Seoul prosecutors exactly when, where and how Park would be questioned, Park’s spokesman told reporters.
Choi, 60, is also accused of interfering in state affairs to the extent of nominating officials and editing Park’s speeches even though she has no official title.
The probe widened again on Tuesday, when prosecutors raided the office of Samsung’s advertising unit, CheilWorldwide, as part of an investigation into Choi’s relatives, the Yonhap news agency said.
Samsung made the largest donation of some $17.5 million to Choi’s foundations and is accused of separately offering $3.1 million to Choi to bankroll her daughter’s equestrian training inGermany.
Prosecutors found evidence that Cheil had made questionable donations to a nonprofit sports foundation controlled by Choi’s niece, Jang Si-ho, Yonhap said.
“The raid is in connection with Cheil’s donation to (Jang’s) foundation,” Yonhap quoted a prosecutor as saying.
Jang, described by local media as a key Choi aide, is accused of using the foundationanda sportsmanagement firm controlled by her to funnel state funds and to extract donations from local firms.
Shin Dong-bin, chairman of Lotte Group, was also summoned to the prosecutors’ office on Tuesday to answer questions. The company donated $3.9 million to the two foundations.