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Friend of embattled South Korean leader arrested

A close friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been arrested over allegations of influence that have led to a political scandal that threatening Ms Park's hold on power.

The arrest of Choi Soon-sil came as many opposition politicians demanded that prosecutors also investigate Ms Park.

With one recent opinion survey showing her approval rating plunging to about 9%, her prime minister-nominee said investigators could look into Ms Park despite her presidential immunity.

Seoul Central District Court accepted a prosecutors' request to issue a warrant to arrest Ms Choi for alleged abuse of authority and fraud, according to court spokesman Shin Jae-hwan.

Ms Choi is to be held in a detention centre pending a court verdict, Mr Shin said.

South Korean media speculate that Ms Choi, who is not officially in the government, manipulated government affairs and pushed businesses to donate millions of dollars to two foundations that she controlled.

Last week, Ms Park offered a public apology after acknowledging Ms Choi had edited some of her speeches and provided public relations help, but South Korean media speculate that Ms Choi played a much larger, secret role in government affairs.

Ms Choi has previously said she received some of Ms Park's speeches in advance but that she did not know if she was seeing confidential information.

Ms Choi is the first person arrested in connection with the scandal. On Wednesday night, prosecutors detained one of Ms Park's former senior presidential secretaries after summoning him for alleged involvement in extracting 70 million US dollars (£56m) in donations.

Prosecutors have 48 hours to determine whether to request an arrest warrant for Ahn Jong-beom or release him.

Much of the public frenzy over the scandal is associated with Ms Choi's family background.

Her father led a religious cult and reportedly was a private mentor for Ms Park, whose parents each were assassinated in the 1970s.

Ms Park's father was a military dictator who ruled South Korea for 18 years.



From Belfast Telegraph