S. Korea’s ‘Rasputin’ re­turns to face scan­dal

> Per­sonal friend to pres­i­dent ac­cused of med­dling in state af­fairs

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

SEOUL: The woman at the heart of a lurid po­lit­i­cal scan­dal en­gulf­ing South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye re­turned to the coun­try yes­ter­day to face ac­cu­sa­tions of in­flu­ence-ped­dling and med­dling in state af­fairs.

With just over a year left to run, Park’s pres­i­dency has un­rav­elled over shock­ing rev­e­la­tions that she dis­cussed and sought ad­vice on gov­ern­ment pol­icy from Choi Soon-Sil, a close per­sonal friend with no of­fi­cial po­si­tion and no se­cu­rity clear­ance.

Choi, who has been holed up in Ger­many since early Septem­ber flew into Seoul yes­ter­day morn­ing on a flight from Lon­don, her lawyer said.

“Choi told me she will co­op­er­ate with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ex­pressed her deep apol­ogy to the peo­ple for let­ting them down and caus­ing them frus­tra­tion,” Lee Kyung-Jae said.

As well as a pub­lic up­roar over her re­la­tion­ship with, and ap­par­ent con­trol over Park, she faces charges of us­ing her links with the pres­i­dent to strong-arm ma­jor com­pa­nies like Sam­sung into do­nat­ing large sums to two non-profit foun­da­tions she set up.

Choi has spo­ken with pros­e­cu­tors to sched­ule her ques­tion­ing, Lee said.

The past week has seen a daily diet of in­creas­ingly sen­sa­tional me­dia re­ports re­gard­ing Choi, the 60-year-old daugh­ter of a shad­owy re­li­gious leader and one-time Park men­tor.

In­vok­ing a lurid back-story of re­li­gious cults, shaman­ist rit­u­als and cor­rup­tion, the re­ports have por­trayed Choi as a Rasputin-like fig­ure whose in­flu­ence ex­tended to vet­ting pres­i­den­tial speeches and ad­vis­ing on key ap­point­ments and pol­icy is­sues.

“As her at­tor­ney, I think the case must be thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated and the truth be told to pre­vent any fur­ther erup­tion of spec­u­la­tion that goes be­yond fan­tasy,” Lee said.

Park yes­ter­day car­ried out a par­tial reshuf­fle of her key aides after or­der­ing her sec­re­tar­iat to hand in their res­ig­na­tions ear­lier this week. She ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tions sub­mit­ted by her chief of staff and four se­nior pres­i­den­tial sec­re­taries, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Jung Youn-Kuk said.

A pub­lic apol­ogy by Park, in which she ac­knowl­edged seek­ing limited ad­vice from Choi, has done noth­ing to as­suage pub­lic out­rage over her be­hav­iour or halt a plunge in her ap­proval rat­ings to record lows. – AFP

REUTERSPIX

Lee, a lay­wer of Choi, leaves after a news con­fer­ence in Seoul yes­ter­day.

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