Prosecutors Link South Korean President To Corruption Scandal
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. .