Tuesday 16 January 2018

South Korean leader acknowledges ties to corruption row woman

South Korean president Park Geun-hye delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul (AP)
South Korean president Park Geun-hye delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul (AP)

South Korea's president has offered a surprise public apology after acknowledging her close ties to a woman at the centre of a corruption scandal.

President Park Geun-hye's apology came a day after South Korean TV reported that the woman, Choi Soon-sil, who has no government job, was informally involved in editing some of Ms Park's key speeches.

There is some media speculation that Ms Choi might have meddled in other state affairs.

Ms Park's approval ratings have plummeted to a record low amid weeks of media reports that Ms Choi might have used her connections to the president to push companies to make tens of millions of dollars in contributions to establish two non-profit foundations.

In a nationally televised speech, Ms Park said Ms Choi helped her on speeches and public relations issues during her 2012 presidential campaign and after her 2013 inauguration.

Ms Park said she eventually stopped receiving such help from Ms Choi, but did not say when that assistance stopped.

"To me, it was something that I did out of a pure intent to do things more thoroughly, but regardless of any reason, I am sorry that I caused concern to the people of our nation, caught them by surprise and hurt their feelings," Ms Park said, bowing deeply.

Ms Park did not mention Ms Choi's corruption allegations, but there was a frenzied social media reaction in South Korea over the president's acknowledgement.

Ms Choi is a daughter of a Christian pastor who had worked as the president's mentor before his 1994 death, according to South Korean media reports.

The pastor, Choi Tae-min, was originally a Buddhist monk, had six marriages and allegedly used his relationship with Ms Park to take bribes from government officials and businessmen, the reports said.

Ms Choi is also the ex-wife of a man who served as Ms Park's chief adviser when she was in the National Assembly before she became president in February 2013.

A Japanese newspaper reported that Ms Park was with the husband during a deadly ferry sinking in 2014 that killed more than 300 people, mostly teenagers.

South Korean prosecutors charged the journalist from the Sankei Shimbun newspaper with defaming Park, but a Seoul court later declared him not guilty.

Ms Park is the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, who was assassinated by his own intelligence chief during a late-night drinking party in 1979. Wednesday marks the 37th anniversary of Park Chung-hee's death.


Press Association

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