S Korea pros­e­cu­tors charge two se­nior ex-Park of­fi­cials

North may take ad­van­tage of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

South Korean pros­e­cu­tors in­dicted a for­mer se­nior pres­i­den­tial aide and a for­mer vice min­is­ter, an of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day, as part of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a cor­rup­tion scan­dal that has led to Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye’s im­peach­ment in par­lia­ment.

Fri­day’s over­whelm­ing par­lia­men­tary vote to re­move Park from of­fice puts her fate in the hands of nine judges of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, which has 180 days to de­cide whether to up­hold the mo­tion or, by re­ject­ing it, re­in­state Park to of­fice. Park’s pow­ers have been sus­pended and as­sumed by Prime Min­is­ter Hwang Kyo-ahn, who has or­dered a high state of mil­i­tary alert for any at­tempt by ri­val North Korea to take ad­van­tage of the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

Park’s deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, Cho Tae-yong, spoke by tele­phone with his US coun­ter­part, Avril Haines, who said the US govern­ment looked for­ward to work­ing with Hwang, the pres­i­den­tial Blue House said in a state­ment. Park, whose father ruled the coun­try for 18 years af­ter seiz­ing power in a coup in 1961, has been ac­cused of col­lud­ing with a friend and a for­mer aide, both of whom pros­e­cu­tors in­dicted ear­lier, to pres­sure big busi­nesses to do­nate to foun­da­tions set up to back her pol­icy ini­tia­tives.

Park, who is serv­ing a sin­gle five-year term that was to end in Fe­bru­ary 2018, has de­nied wrong­do­ing but apol­o­gized for care­less­ness in her ties with her friend, Choi Soon-sil. Pros­e­cu­tors yes­ter­day again char­ac­ter­ized Park as a co-con­spir­a­tor, al­though she has im­mu­nity from prose­cu­tion as long as she re­mains in of­fice. They made a sim­i­lar as­ser­tion on Nov 20.

If the Con­sti­tu­tional Court af­firms the par­lia­men­tary vote, Park would be­come the first demo­crat­i­cally elected leader of Asia’s fourth-big­gest econ­omy to be forced from of­fice. South Korea’s fi­nance min­is­ter warned yes­ter­day that the im­peach­ment could weigh on the econ­omy if sen­ti­ment was un­der­mined. “Amid so much global un­cer­tainty, this po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is fur­ther weigh­ing on the econ­omy and a down­turn in sen­ti­ment could be an­other prob­lem,” Fi­nance Min­is­ter Yoo Il-ho told a news con­fer­ence.

Protests

The two for­mer of­fi­cials whose charges were re­ported by a prose­cu­tion of­fi­cial yes­ter­day in­cluded a for­mer se­nior eco­nomic aide, Cho Won-dong, ac­cused of col­lud­ing with the pres­i­dent in try­ing to pres­sure a South Korean con­glom­er­ate, CJ Group, to dis­miss a group vice chair­man. Cho told a par­lia­men­tary hear­ing on Wed­nes­day he had found the arm-twist­ing wrong but he had to de­liver the pres­i­dent’s mes­sage to the con­glom­er­ate.

The chair­man of food-to-en­ter­tain­ment con­glom­er­ate CJ Group, Sohn Kyung-shik, told a sep­a­rate hear­ing that Cho had met him and asked the group to re­move the vice chair­man from her po­si­tion. The sec­ond newly charged per­son was a for­mer vice cul­ture min­is­ter, Kim Chong, in­dicted for sus­pected abuse of power and co­er­cion for ex­ert­ing in­flu­ence over a staterun firm to make a con­tract with a sports man­age­ment com­pany con­trolled by the pres­i­dent’s friend, Yon­hap and other out­lets re­ported. A spokesman in the pres­i­den­tial Blue House de­clined to com­ment.

The scan­dal blew up in Oc­to­ber and has drawn large street protests in Seoul for the past seven Satur­days, with the crowds call­ing for Park to step down im­me­di­ately. A can­dle-lit rally on Saturday drew a smaller crowd of about 120,000 at its peak, po­lice said, al­though or­ga­niz­ers put the to­tal num­ber of par­tic­i­pants at 800,000.

North Korean state me­dia has been scathing in its cov­er­age of the scan­dal. Yes­ter­day, it said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guided a spe­cial op­er­a­tions drill targeting the South. Pic­tures in the North’s Rodong Sin­mun news­pa­per showed what ap­peared to be a mockup of South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial Blue House as a tar­get. The United States, which has about 28,500 troops sta­tioned in South Korea, was in close con­tact with South Korea and re­mained a strong ally, the White House said late on Fri­day.

— AP

SEOUL: Pro­test­ers march to­ward the pres­i­den­tial house dur­ing a rally against im­peached Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye.

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