South Korean prosecutors says President Park had major role in scandal
Embattled South Korean President Park Geun-hye will likely be finding it increasingly difficult to contain public anger over an influence-peddling scandal involving one of her close friends as prosecutors have now attributed a major “collusive” role in the case to the president herself.
At the center of the scandal has been President Park’s long-time friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of, among other things, wielding influence over government decisions even as she held no official post or security clearance.
Already disgraced and in custody, Choi was officially charged with fraud and abuse of power on Sunday.
But the prosecutors investigating the case did not stop there. They are constitutionally barred from laying official charges against a sitting president. They took aim for Park, anyway.
“We, based on the evidence collected so far… view that the president played a collusive role in a considerable portion of the criminal activities involving the (three) people,” said Lee Young-Ryeol, who is leading the probe into the scandal, on Sunday.
“We will continue to investigate the president,” added Lee, who is the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets in the capital, Seoul, and elsewhere in the country for four weeks to demand the president’s resignation over the scandal. With the accusation by Lee confirming the scandalous allegations, which first surfaced and have since been going on in the media, it would not be hard to imagine toughened public fury and an even starker challenge to President Park’s rule.
Opposition lawmakers have so far refrained from launching an impeachment process against the president. They may now decide to take the road not taken.
Park has apologized to the nation but has been defiant in the face of calls on her to step down. There was no immediate reaction to the announcement by Lee from the presidency.
Apart from Choi, the South Korean prosecutors also formally indicted two of the president’s former aides, Ahn Jong-beom and Jung Ho-sung. They stepped downed as the scandal became public.