Prose­cu­tors quiz S. Korea’s ‘Rasputin’

> Key fig­ure in po­lit­i­cal scan­dal de­nies crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

SEOUL: South Korean prose­cu­tors yes­ter­day ques­tioned the woman at the cen­tre of a po­lit­i­cal scan­dal that has shat­tered pub­lic con­fi­dence in Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye, with al­le­ga­tions of fraud and med­dling in state af­fairs.

In the wake of mass street protests in Seoul and other cities to de­mand Park’s res­ig­na­tion, Choi Soon-Sil – who has de­nied any crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing – sub­mit­ted to prose­cu­tors in Seoul a day af­ter fly­ing back from Ger­many.

Park and Choi have been close friends for 40 years. The pre­cise na­ture of that friend­ship lies at the heart of the cur­rent scan­dal which has trig­gered a me­dia frenzy in South Korea, with lurid re­ports of re­li­gious cults and shaman­is­tic rit­u­als.

The me­dia has por­trayed the 60-year-old Choi as a Rasputin-like fig­ure, who wielded an un­healthy in­flu­ence over Park and in­ter­fered in gov­ern­ment pol­icy de­spite hold­ing no of­fi­cial post and hav­ing no se­cu­rity clear­ance.

Sug­ges­tions that Choi vet­ted pres­i­den­tial speeches and was given ac­cess to clas­si­fied doc­u­ments has ex­posed Park to pub­lic anger and ridicule and, with just over a year left in of­fice, pushed her ap­proval rat­ings off a cliff.

Tele­vised footage of Choi’s ar­rival at the Seoul Cen­tral Dis­trict Prose­cu­tors’ Of­fice showed a dis­traught-look­ing Choi – dressed head to toe in black with her face cov­ered with a hat and scarf – as she stepped out of a black sedan to face hun­dreds of re­porters.

Choi did not say a word as she sobbed and shoved her way into the build­ing past re­porters and pro­test­ers with plac­ards that read “Ar­rest Choi Soon-Sil! Im­peach Park Geun-Hye!”

“Please for­give me. I have com­mit­ted a deadly sin,” Choi was quoted as say­ing by Yon­hap news agency af­ter step­ping in­side the build­ing.

A task force, led by the head of the Seoul prose­cu­tors’ of­fice, has been set up to in­ves­ti­gate the leak of pres­i­den­tial doc­u­ments and whether Choi med­dled in state af­fairs.

Choi has also been ac­cused of us­ing her re­la­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent to co­erce cor­po­rate do­na­tions to two non-profit foun­da­tions, and then si­phon­ing off funds for her per­sonal use.

“We hope that the var­i­ous al­le­ga­tions can be thor­oughly ver­i­fied,” pres­i­den­tial spokesman Jung Youn-Kuk said.

Choi is the daugh­ter of a late shad­owy re­li­gious leader and one-time Park men­tor called Choi Tae-Min, who was mar­ried six times, had mul­ti­ple pseudonyms and set up his own cult-like group known as the Church of Eter­nal Life. – AFP

REUTERSPIX

Choi (cen­tre) re­acts as she is sur­rounded by me­dia upon her ar­rival at the prose­cu­tors’ of­fice in Seoul yes­ter­day.

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