Scandal widens as two Park aides arrested
SOUTH Korean prosecutors arrested two former top presidential aides yesterday in a snowballing influence-peddling scandal which has seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets to demand that President Park Geunhye resign.
Ms Park’s approval ratings have hit a historic low of 5 percent – a record for a sitting president – over the scandal involving her close personal friend Choi Soon-sil.
Ms Choi has been arrested for fraud and also stands accused of meddling in state affairs – including government appointments and policy decisions.
Ahn Jong-beom, a former senior adviser to Ms Park, was formally arrested yesterday on charges of abuse of power and attempted coercion, the Yonhap news agency reported.
He is suspected of helping Ms Choi collect millions of dollars in donations from conglomerates like Samsung to two dubious non-profit foundations which Ms Choi set up and allegedly used for personal gain.
Mr Ahn, who has been in custody since November 2 after stepping down late last month said he would “take responsibility for assisting the president badly”, Yonhap reported.
Prosecutors also arrested Jeong Ho-seong, another former presidential aide, over allegations that he leaked classified information.
The 47-year-old Mr Jeong, who was known as Ms Park’s right-hand man and has assisted her since 1998, is suspected of passing official documents to Ms Choi.
Ms Park has been scrambling to restore trust in her administration amid the deepening crisis, reshuffling ministers and senior advisers to bring in figures from outside her ruling conservative Saenuri Party.
Whatever transpires, the very personal nature of the scandal has severely undermined Ms Park’s ability to govern, turning her into the lamest of lame-duck leaders at a time of slowing economic growth, rising unemployment and elevated military tensions with North Korea. –
Former presidential aide Ahn Jongbeom sits in a police van following his arrest in Seoul yesterday.