South Korea prosecutors detain ex-presidential aide amid scandal

2016-11-03 10:21
 South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during her New Year press conference at the presidential Blue House. (Jung Yeon Je, AFP)

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during her New Year press conference at the presidential Blue House. (Jung Yeon Je, AFP)

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Seoul – South Korean prosecutors detained a former senior aide of President Park Geun-hye as they widen their investigations into a snowballing political scandal centering on whether the president's longtime friend was pulling government strings from the shadows, officials said on Thursday.

Ahn Jong-beom is the second person detained over the scandal that has plunged Park's approval rating to record lows and triggered mounting calls for her resignation. Earlier this week, prosecutors detained Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, and requested an arrest warrant for her.

South Korean media speculate Choi, who has no government position, secretly made policy recommendations for Park and pushed businesses to donate millions of dollars to two foundations she controlled.

Prosecutors investigating the scandal detained Ahn on Wednesday night after they summoned him to question whether he was involved in extracting $70m of company donations, according to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. Prosecutors have 48 hours to determine whether to seek an arrest warrant for Ahn or release him.

Attempted diversion

Ahn was among the eight presidential advisers who Park fired in an attempt to regain public trust in the wake of the scandal. On Thursday, Park nominated her new prime minister and two other top officials, but opposition lawmakers quickly criticised the reshuffles as an attempted diversion.

Much of public frenzy over the scandal is associated with Choi's family background. Her father led a religious cult and reportedly was a private mentor for Park, whose parents each were assassinated in the 1970s. Park's father was a strongman who ruled South Korea with an iron fist for 18 years.

While acknowledging her ties to Choi Soon-sil last week, Park said Choi helped her "when I had difficulties" in the past. Park also acknowledged Choi had edited some of her speeches and provided public relations help.

South Korean media speculate Choi may have had access to sensitive information and played a much larger role in government affairs.

A Seoul court will likely determine by Friday morning whether to approve an arrest warrant for Choi.

Park has already been criticised for an aloof manner and for relying on only a few longtime confidantes.

That she may have outsourced sensitive decisions to someone outside of government, and someone connected with a murky, lurid backstory, has incensed many.

Read more on:    south korea  |  politics

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