Scan­dal-hit Park re­places prime minister

The Myanmar Times - - World -

SOUTH Korea’s em­bat­tled pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye re­placed her prime minister and two other top cab­i­net mem­bers yes­ter­day in a bid to con­tain a dam­ag­ing po­lit­i­cal scan­dal.

The move was part of a planned reshuf­fle of se­nior civil ser­vants and min­is­ters aimed at set­ting up a cross­party “neu­tral” cab­i­net and as­suag­ing public anger with the pres­i­dent and her ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ms Park has been en­gulfed in a po­lit­i­cal storm over al­le­ga­tions that she al­lowed a long-time friend, who holds no po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion, to med­dle in af­fairs of state, in­clud­ing cab­i­net ap­point­ments.

The friend, Choi Soon-sil, is cur­rently be­ing ques­tioned un­der emer­gency de­ten­tion by pros­e­cu­tors over her links to Ms Park and other al­le­ga­tions of in­flu­ence-ped­dling and fraud.

A pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son said Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn had been re­placed “in con­nec­tion with the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion” and added that the fi­nance and public safety min­is­ters were also be­ing changed.

The new premier was named as Kim By­ong-joon, a top aide to the late lib­eral pres­i­dent Roh Moo-hyun.

The prime minister is a largely sym­bolic post in South Korea, where power is firmly con­cen­trated in the pres­i­dency.

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, seen her ap­proval rat­ings plunge into the sin­gle dig­its.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial sources cited by the Yon­hap news agency, pros­e­cu­tors were set to seek a for­mal ar­rest war­rant against Ms Choi soon.

In an ef­fort to de­flect some of the crit­i­cism, Ms Park had been urged to cre­ate a neu­tral cab­i­net by bring­ing in mem­bers from out­side her rul­ing con­ser­va­tive Saenuri Party.

But op­po­si­tion par­ties have said they need to be con­sulted on any ap­point­ments and also in­sist that any reshuf­fle should be pre­ceded by a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Ms Park’s re­la­tion­ship with Ms Choi.

The main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party of Korea said yes­ter­day’s changes were purely cos­metic.

The me­dia has por­trayed the 60-year-old Ms Choi as a Rasputin-like fig­ure, who wielded an un­healthy in­flu­ence over Ms Park that con­tin­ued af­ter her pres­i­den­tial elec­tion vic­tory in De­cem­ber 2012.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, Ms Choi was seen en­ter­ing the Seoul pros­e­cu­tors of­fice for a third day of ques­tion­ing.

The YTN news chan­nel showed footage of Ms Choi, her face cov­ered with a sur­gi­cal mask and a dark coat cov­er­ing her prison out­fit, dis­em­bark­ing from a bus that brought her from the prison where she had spent a sec­ond night in cus­tody. –

Photo: AFP

Choi Soon-sil, who is at the heart of a lurid po­lit­i­cal scan­dal engulfing South Korea’s Pres­i­dent Park Ge­un­hye, is es­corted by po­lice from a de­ten­tion cen­tre to the Cen­tral Dis­trict Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice in Seoul yes­ter­day.

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