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South Korean president 'to be quizzed over power manipulation'

Published 13/11/2016

Protesters hold up cards during a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul on Saturday (AP)
Protesters hold up cards during a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul on Saturday (AP)

Prosecutors are likely to question South Korean President Park Geun-hye over suspicions that she let a shadowy long-time confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes, a news agency has reported.

It would be the first time that a sitting president has been questioned by prosecutors.

The scandal is the most serious challenge for Ms Park, whose public apologies have done little to calm public anger.

The state-run Yonhap agency quoted a Seoul central district prosecutors' office official as saying that the questioning is most likely to take place later this week, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The presidential Blue House had no immediate comment on the Yonhap report.

In addition to allegedly manipulating power, the president's confidante, Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a late cult leader who emerged as Ms Park's mentor in the 1970s, is also suspected of exploiting her presidential ties to bully companies into donating tens of millions of dollars to foundations she controlled.

Ms Choi was formally arrested on November 3 on charges of fraud and abuse of power. Prosecutors have until November 20 to formally charge her.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded Seoul's streets to demand Ms Park's resignation in what may be South Korea's largest protest since it shook off dictatorship three decades ago.

In an attempt to stabilise the situation, Ms Park said on Tuesday that she would let the opposition-controlled parliament choose her prime minister.

Opposition parties say her words are meaningless without specific promises about transferring much of her presidential powers to a new number two.

Under South Korean law, the president has immunity from prosecution except in cases of treason, but she can be investigated.

Ms Park has 15 months left in her term. If she steps down before the end of it, an election must be held within 60 days.

AP

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