What we know about South Korean scan­dal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

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