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Park associate could face arrest over alleged influence

Reporter: U-Jean Jung 丨 CCTV.com

11-01-2016 12:29 BJT

The woman at the center of a political scandal that has engulfed South Korea’s presidential office has been summoned by prosecutors for questioning. It comes after Choi Soon-sil returned from Germany on Sunday, where she had been in hiding following damning revelations linked to President Park Geun-hye.

Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of Park, appeared in front of the media for the first time on Monday, before entering the prosecutor’s office.

Choi is accused of influencing state affairs as a private citizen and using her friendship with the president to extract funds worth 7 million dollars from businesses for two foundations, then to appropriate some of that money for her personal use.

Park gave a rare televised apology on Tuesday, acknowledging consulting Choi on some speech drafts early in her term. Experts in Seoul say the public has lost all faith in the current administration.

“I don’t think there’s any point in hoping that Park will be able to regain the people’s trust again. It takes a lot of time to recover broken trust. But we just don’t have enough time for that. That’s why this is a serious problem,” said Professor Shin Yul, Myongji University.

“People’s doubts turned out to be true. So, people have started to ask fundamental questions on the meaning of the country's election and their votes—progressives and conservatives aside.”

Park’s approval ratings dipped to a record low of 14 percent in the following days and thousands protested in central Seoul on Saturday, demanding Park to step down.

There have been similar anti-government protests small and big in various spots in Seoul on Monday. Low approval ratings for presidents in their last year in office is typical in Seoul, but for Park, it is a more serious matter, as she still has more than a year left of her single-term presidency.

“The only way to resolve this crisis is for the president to take her hands off all state affairs, and give full authority to a prime minister appointed by the ruling and opposition parties, who will then form the new cabinet. There is no other way,” Professor Shin Yul said.

One opinion poll said more than 40 percent of respondents want Park to resign or be impeached.

As prosecutors continue to investigate presidential aides and Choi Soon-sil, the President on Sunday accepted resignations from her top aides, including her chief of staff. But many feel it may not be enough to regain the public’s trust, even with a thorough and objective probe by the prosecution.

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