Viagra hardens stand against Park, Samsung raided
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. –
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.