What we know about South Korean scandal
To outsiders, the frenzy that has erupted here may not seem to match this week’s acknowledgment by South Korean President Park Geun-hye that she got help, including the editing of some of her speeches, from a mysterious woman outside of the government. But Park’s surprise televised address has created one of the biggest challenges of her four years in power - and touched a deep chord in this divided nation.
Media and online commentators speculate that the woman, Choi Soon-sil, might have meddled in other state affairs, even as she used her connections to Park to push companies to make tens of millions of dollars in contributions to establish two nonprofit foundations. How bad is it for Park? At one point recently, the 10 most popular search words on a major internet portal site were all associated with the scandal, including the word “impeachment.” What we know about a growing political scandal:
What Park has said
Park acknowledged having close ties to the woman, saying in her address Tuesday that Choi helped her “when I had difficulties” in the past. Park said Choi gave her personal advice on speeches and public relations issues during the 2012 presidential election campaign and for an unspecified time after Park’s 2013 inauguration. Park said she eventually stopped getting such help from Choi, but didn’t say when that help stopped. Park also did not mention the reports about Choi’s corruption scandal. But the president’s acknowledgment that she got some help from Choi appeared to give credence to widespread media speculation that Choi, who doesn’t have any official government post, might have pulled strings behind the scenes and interfered in key state affairs.
Why the frenzy has been so big
Park’s statement caused an instant uproar in South Korea. Stories about it were on every major newspaper front page and led TV newscasts. Liberal opposition lawmakers demanded resignations from all of Park’s presidential advisers and Cabinet members. Many South Koreans believe that Park’s acknowledgment is simply the tip of a much bigger iceberg, and that Choi was deeply involved in state affairs behind the scenes.
Park’s statement failed to soothe public anger. In fact, it triggered more questions about Choi’s role in her government. The acknowledgment also seems to feed into longrunning criticism that Park doesn’t manage things transparently and has poor communication skills. Park’s perceived faults are often seen by opponents as similar to the heavyhanded style of her late dictator father, former President Park Chung-hee. Deep political divisions still linger in South Korea from the country’s decades of rule by military dictators, which ended only in the late 1980s. — AP
SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-hye bows after a public apology in Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016. Park offered a surprise public apology after acknowledging her close ties to a mysterious woman at the center of a corruption scandal. — AP