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South Korean Scandal Edges Closer to President

  • VOA News

FILE - A South Korean protester carries a placard showing images of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil, top left, during a rally calling for Park to step down, Nov. 2, 2016, in Seoul, South Korea.

FILE - A South Korean protester carries a placard showing images of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil, top left, during a rally calling for Park to step down, Nov. 2, 2016, in Seoul, South Korea.

South Korean prosecutors detained a former advisor of President Park Geun-hye as part of a growing influence-peddling investigation.

Ahn Jong-beom was Park's secretary for policy coordination before he and several other cabinet members were ordered to resign late last week.

Ahn is under investigation for allegedly helping Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of the South Korean president, coerce companies to donate money to nonprofit organizations Choi reportedly set up and controlled. Choi allegedly used some of that money for personal gain.

Choi was detained on Wednesday after three days of questioning, and prosecutors have requested an arrest warrant..

FILE - A former presidential secretary Ahn Jong-beom arrives for questioning at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 2, 2016. South Korean prosecutors also requested an arrest warrant for a longtime another friend of President Park Geun-hye.

FILE - A former presidential secretary Ahn Jong-beom arrives for questioning at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 2, 2016. South Korean prosecutors also requested an arrest warrant for a longtime another friend of President Park Geun-hye.

Choi is also alleged to have exercised “cult-like” control over President Park, including possibly making policy recommendations. Park admitted that Choi edited some of her speeches and provided other public relations help.

South Korean media speculate that, although she had no government position, Choi may have had access to sensitive information.

On Wednesday, Park announced the appointments of several new ministers – including nominating a new prime minister – as part of a major cabinet reshuffle in response to escalating criticism of Park and her administration.

Kim Byong-joon, Park's prime minister-designate, said Thursday that it was possible that the president herself could be investigated, despite a constitutional provision that protects sitting presidents from criminal charges except for serious crimes, such as treason or insurrection.

"Everyone, including the president, is equal before the law," Kim said at a press conference.

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