Pros­e­cu­tors de­tain woman at cen­tre of Park cri­sis

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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, who faces al­le­ga­tions of fraud and med­dling in state af­fairs over her decades-long friend­ship with Ms Park, was grilled for hours on Oc­to­ber 31 af­ter she re­turned to the coun­try from Ger­many and handed her­self in fol­low­ing mass 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 Ms Choi as a Rasputin­like fig­ure, who wielded an un­healthy in­flu­ence over Ms Park and in­ter­fered in gov­ern­ment pol­icy de­spite hold­ing no of­fi­cial post and hav­ing no se­cu­rity clear­ance.

She flew back to Seoul from Ger­many on Oc­to­ber 30 and was mobbed by hun­dreds of jour­nal­ists and an­gry pro­test­ers wav­ing plac­ards de­mand­ing her ar­rest.

Dressed from head to toe in black, Ms Choi lost her hat, sun­glasses and one Prada shoe as she strug­gled through the scrum to the Seoul District Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice.

“Please for­give me. I have com­mit­ted a deadly sin,” Ms Choi said af­ter she made it in­side the build­ing.

Af­ter a night in de­ten­tion, she was es­corted back to the pros­e­cu­tors’ 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 Ms Choi be­fore the emer­gency de­ten­tion pe­riod ex­pires.

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

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

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey pub­lished yes­ter­day, Ms Park’s ap­proval rat­ing was 9.2 per­cent, with 67pc of vot­ers say­ing she should step down.

The Hanky­oreh news­pa­per re­ported that Ms Choi had been a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the pres­i­den­tial Blue House since Ms Park took of­fice in 2013 some­thing the ad­min­is­tra­tion has staunchly de­nied. –

Photo: AFP

Traf­fic passes Gyeong­bok­gung palace and the pres­i­den­tial Blue House (cen­tre, top) in Seoul.

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