Prosecutors detain Park’s confidante
> Woman at centre of South Korean political crisis deemed a flight risk
SEOUL: The woman at the centre of the snowballing political scandal engulfing President Park Geun-Hye has been put under emergency detention after prosecutors said she was “unstable” and a flight risk.
Choi Soon-Sil ( pix), who faces allegations of fraud and meddling in state affairs over her decades-long friendship with Park, was grilled for hours Monday after she returned to the country and handed herself in following street protests.
“There is a possibility of Choi trying to destroy evidence as she is denying all the allegations,” a prosecution official told the Yonhap news agency, explaining the decision to hold her for 48 hours.
“She has fled overseas in the past, and she doesn’t have a permanent address in this country, making her a flight risk.
“She is also in an extremely unstable psychological state.”
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.
She flew back to Seoul on Sunday from Germany and was mobbed by hundreds of journalists and angry protesters waving placards demanding her arrest.
Dressed from head to toe in black, Choi lost her hat, sunglasses and one Prada shoe as she struggled through the scrum to the Seoul District Prosecutor’s Office on Monday.
“Please forgive me. I have committed a deadly sin,” Choi said after she made it inside the building, Yonhap reported.
After a night in detention, she was escorted back to the prosecutor’s office early yesterday wearing prison uniform for another round of questioning – which could last for days, Yonhap said.
Prosecutors have to decide whether to seek a warrant to formally arrest Choi before the emergency detention period expires.
Although Choi was being questioned at another location, a man used a heavy construction excavator to smash the front entrance of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office building in Seoul yesterday, injuring a security guard, in an apparent act of protest against Choi.
According to Han Jeung-sub, a senior official at the Seocho police station, the 45year-old man told police: “Choi Soon-sil said she had committed a crime she deserves to die for, so I came here to help her die.”
Park carried out a partial reshuffle of her key aides on Sunday and is considering calls to form a neutral multi-party cabinet to restore public trust.
Analysts say the scandal could paralyse Park’s administration, underlining her lame-duck status ahead of presidential elections in December next year. – Agencies
Policemen inspect an excavator after its driver rammed the entrance of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul yesterday.
This undated picture released by KCNA on March 28 shows Kim and Ri (left) inspecting the newly built Mirae Shop in Pyongyang.