Prose­cu­tors quiz woman at core of po­lit­i­cal cri­sis

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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 Ms Park’s res­ig­na­tion, Choi Soon-sil – who has de­nied any crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing – sub­mit­ted to prose­cu­tors in Seoul a day af­ter fly­ing back to the coun­try from Ger­many.

Ms Park and Ms 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 Ms Choi as a Rasputin­like fig­ure, who wielded an un­healthy in­flu­ence over Ms Park and in­ter­fered in gov­ern­ment pol­icy de­spite hold­ing no of­fi­cial post.

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

A task force, led by the head of the pow­er­ful Seoul Cen­tral Dis­trict Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice, has been set up to in­ves­ti­gate the leak of pres­i­den­tial doc­u­ments and whether Ms Choi med­dled in state af­fairs.

Ms 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 use.

Ms Choi is the daugh­ter of a late shad­owy re­li­gious leader and one­time men­tor of Ms Park, 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.

A pub­lic apol­ogy by Ms Park, in which she ac­knowl­edged seek­ing lim­ited ad­vice from Ms Choi, did lit­tle to

as­suage pub­lic out­rage and she has strug­gled to draw a po­lit­i­cal line un­der the cri­sis.

Ms Park car­ried out a par­tial reshuf­fle of her key aides on Oc­to­ber 30 and is con­sid­er­ing calls from her rul­ing Saenuri Party to form a neu­tral multi-party cab­i­net to re­store pub­lic trust and na­tional unity.

In a mes­sage sent to re­porters, one of her se­nior ad­vis­ers who stepped down in the reshuf­fle de­scribed Ms Park as “lonely and sad”.

The main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party of Korea has stopped short of de­mand­ing the pres­i­dent’s res­ig­na­tion, but is re­fus­ing to be­gin cross-party talks un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Ms Choi has run its course.

An­a­lysts say the scan­dal could paral­yse Ms Park’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, un­der­lin­ing her lame-duck sta­tus ahead of pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in De­cem­ber next year. –

Photo: AFP

Choi Soon-sil (cen­tre) ar­rives at the Seoul Cen­tral Dis­trict Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice in Seoul yes­ter­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.