Prose­cu­tors Link South Korean Pres­i­dent To Cor­rup­tion Scan­dal

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South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye suf­fered a heavy blow on Sun­day, when prose­cu­tors in­dicted a friend of hers on charges in­clud­ing ex­tor­tion and abuse of power, and in­di­cated they thought the pres­i­dent was com­plicit in the crimes. The prose­cu­tion said it would con­tinue to try to ques­tion Ms Park, with the an­nounce­ment ef­fec­tively mak­ing her a sus­pect rather than a wit­ness, while op­po­si­tion lead­ers said they would re­dou­ble their ef­forts to force Ms Park from of­fice. “There are now suf­fi­cient grounds for her im­peach­ment,” Moon Jae-in, a prom­i­nent op­po­si­tion politi­cian and pres­i­den­tial hope­ful, said af­ter the an­nounce­ment. It came a day af­ter hun­dreds of thou­sands of South Kore­ans took to the streets of cen­tral Seoul for a fourth con­sec­u­tive Satur­day, call­ing on Ms Park to re­sign. The demon­stra­tions are the largest since South Korea democra­tised in 1987. The prose­cu­tion said on Sun­day that it had in­dicted Choi Soonsil, Ms Park’s friend of 40 years who held no of­fi­cial po­si­tion, with abuse of power, co­er­cion, at­tempted co­er­cion and fraud.

It also in­dicted two for­mer pres­i­den­tial secretaries on charges in­clud­ing abuse of power, at­tempted co­er­cion, fraud and di­vulging clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. The charges come out of a cor­rup­tion and in­flu­ence-ped­dling scan­dal that has Ms Park, South Korea’s first fe­male pres­i­dent, fight­ing for her po­lit­i­cal life. A fa­mously aloof per­son, Ms Park is ac­cused of re­ly­ing on Ms Choi for ev­ery­thing from pol­icy ad­vice to wardrobe choices, in­stead of seek­ing coun­sel from her aides. Ms Choi, the daugh­ter of a shaman­is­tic cult leader, is ac­cused of ex­ploit­ing those ties to raise money and win fa­vors for her­self and her fam­ily. Sun­day’s charges re­late to Ms Choi’s al­leged ex­tor­tion, with the help of one of the pres­i­den­tial secretaries, An Chong-bum, of $70 mil­lion from 53 com­pa­nies through a big-busi­ness lob­by­ing group, the Fed­er­a­tion of Korean In­dus­tries. The com­pa­nies felt they had to do­nate the money or they would be at risk of au­dits or un­fair treat­ment from gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties, prose­cu­tors said. The money was meant for two foun­da­tions, but Ms Choi is al­leged to have si­phoned off much of it for her per­sonal use.

The other pres­i­den­tial aide, Chung Ho-sung, leaked at least 180 gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments to Ms Choi over three years, in­clud­ing 47 that in­cluded con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion such as the ap­point­ments of min­is­ters, prose­cu­tors said.

South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye (cen­tre) is fac­ing the biggest po­lit­i­cal cri­sis of her ca­reer. .

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