Vi­a­gra hard­ens stand against Park, Sam­sung raided

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE scan­dal over South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye’s shad­owy con­fi­dante took an even more bizarre turn yes­ter­day when Ms Park’s of­fice was forced to ex­plain a mass pur­chase of Vi­a­gra.

The rev­e­la­tions about Ms Park’s decades-long ties with close friend Choi Soon-sil have sparked huge me­dia in­ter­est in the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal life.

An op­po­si­tion party law­maker re­vealed that Ms Park’s of­fice last year bought hun­dreds of pills which can treat erec­tile dys­func­tion, in­clud­ing Vi­a­gra and the generic ver­sion of the drug.

As the rev­e­la­tion sparked a me­dia frenzy, Ms Park’s spokesper­son said the drug was pur­chased to ease pos­si­ble moun­tain sick­ness dur­ing Ms Park’s visit in May to high-alti­tude African na­tions in­clud­ing Ethiopia.

“We bought it for the trip but did not use it,” Jung Youn-kuk said, adding the drug is known to be ef­fec­tive in treat­ing alti­tude sick­ness.

Ms Park has never mar­ried and has no known part­ner.

Her of­fice in re­cent years also bought hun­dreds of in­jectable doses of hu­man pla­centa ex­tract and vi­ta­min shots – com­monly used for an­ti­age­ing treat­ment.

Pros­e­cu­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Ms Park also had var­i­ous in­jec­tions pre­scribed for her­self us­ing Ms Choi’s name at pri­vate clin­ics, with­out the knowl­edge of the of­fi­cial pres­i­den­tial med­i­cal staff.

In a scan­dal which has en­gulfed the pres­i­dency, Ms Park and Ms Choi are ac­cused of col­lud­ing to co­erce firms to do­nate tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to du­bi­ous non-profit foun­da­tions con­trolled by Ms Choi.

South Korean pros­e­cu­tors raided of­fices of the Sam­sung Group and the state pen­sion fund yes­ter­day as the elec­tron­ics gi­ant is dragged fur­ther into the snow­balling in­flu­en­ceped­dling scan­dal.

The raid comes as Sam­sung faces al­le­ga­tions it bribed Ms Choi to win state ap­proval for a con­tro­ver­sial merger it sought last year.

Pros­e­cu­tors vis­ited the group’s Fu­ture Strat­egy Of­fice, which over­sees key busi­ness de­ci­sions, the Yon­hap news agency re­ported.

The merger of Cheil In­dus­tries and Sam­sung C&T last year was seen as a cru­cial step to en­sure a smooth third­gen­er­a­tional power trans­fer to Lee Jae-yong, scion of Sam­sung’s found­ing fam­ily.

It was crit­i­cised by many who said it wil­fully un­der­val­ued Sam­sung C&T’s stocks, but Seoul’s Na­tional Pen­sion Ser­vice (NPS) – a ma­jor Sam­sung share­holder – voted in favour of the deal, which even­tu­ally went through.

US hedge fund El­liott Man­age­ment, which con­trols about 0.62 per­cent of Sam­sung, ral­lied op­po­si­tion to the deal, and al­though it lost the bat­tle its cam­paign was seen as a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for share­holder ac­tivism in South Korea.

Pros­e­cu­tors also raided sev­eral NPS of­fices, a spokesper­son for the pen­sion fund said.

The NPS over­sees funds of 543 tril­lion won (US$461 bil­lion), mak­ing it the world’s third-largest ser­vice of its kind.

The fund is over­seen by the wel­fare min­istry and the min­is­ter in charge at the time was re­garded as very close to Park.

Ms Choi has been for­mally in­dicted on charges of abuse of power and co­er­cion.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Ms Park col­luded with Ms Choi to ex­tract money from the firms and will ques­tion her as a sub­ject in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The pres­i­dent an­grily de­nied the pros­e­cu­tors’ ac­cu­sa­tions, call­ing them a “fan­tasy” based on “imag­i­na­tion and guess­work”.

Ms Park had ear­lier promised to an­swer ques­tions “sin­cerely” but her lawyer said the pres­i­dent would not meet pros­e­cu­tors and would only deal with the independent team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors which will soon take over the probe.

A key pres­i­den­tial aide who was once a star pros­e­cu­tor and jus­tice min­is­ter Kim Hyun-woong both of­fered their res­ig­na­tions yes­ter­day, as ten­sions be­tween Ms Park and pros­e­cu­tors reached new heights.

Ac­tivists said a fifth protest in Seoul on Novem­ber 26 would draw be­tween 1.5 and 2 mil­lion peo­ple, which would make it the largestever public demon­stra­tion in South Korea.

Sam­sung – South Korea’s big­gest busi­ness group – do­nated 20 bil­lion won to Ms Choi’s foun­da­tions, mak­ing it the largest sin­gle con­trib­u­tor.

It is sep­a­rately ac­cused of of­fer­ing Ms Choi $3 mil­lion to bankroll her daugh­ter’s eques­trian train­ing in Ger­many, which led pros­e­cu­tors to raid Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics’ of­fices in Seoul this month.

The group’s ad­ver­tis­ing unit is also ac­cused of of­fer­ing a do­na­tion to a sports foun­da­tion run by Ms Choi’s niece, who is seen as her key aide.

A num­ber of Sam­sung of­fi­cials – in­clud­ing Mr Lee – have been ques­tioned by pros­e­cu­tors over the scan­dal, which has shed light on un­healthy ties be­tween the govern­ment and pow­er­ful con­glom­er­ates that have en­dured over decades. –

Photo: EPA

Hyun Myung-kwan, head of the Korea Rac­ing Author­ity, leaves the Seoul Cen­tral District Pros­e­cu­tors’ Of­fice yes­ter­day af­ter un­der­go­ing overnight ques­tion­ing over al­leged in­volve­ment in the in­flu­ence-ped­dling scan­dal in­volv­ing Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye’s con­fi­dante Choi Soon-sil.

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