S. Korea’s ‘Rasputin’ returns to face scandal
> Personal friend to president accused of meddling in state affairs
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
Lee, a laywer of Choi, leaves after a news conference in Seoul yesterday.