South Korea: Prosecutors detain ex-presidential aide

Ex-senior adviser becomes second person to be held in influence-peddling scandal engulfing Park Geun-hye’s presidency.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye appoints new Chief of Staff
Park, left, has seen her approval ratings plunge as a result of the scandal [EPA] [EPA]

South Korean prosecutors are reported to have detained a former aide to President Park Geun-hye, the second person to be held in an influence-peddling scandal that has shaken the country.

Prosecutors said on Thursday that they have been looking into allegations that the former senior adviser, An Chong-bum, and Choi Soon-sil, a long-time confidante, forced South Korean conglomerates to donate funds to non-profit foundations using their connections with Park.

An, who was a senior presidential adviser in policy coordination until he stepped down late last month amid the crisis, was arrested late on Wednesday.

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He said earlier outside prosecution offices that he would take responsibility for his actions but declined to elaborate.

An’s lawyers were not immediately available for comment early on Thursday. Prosecutors placed him under emergency detention, worried that he could destroy evidence, the prosecution official told Reuters news agency.

Under South Korean law, prosecutors have 48 hours to seek an arrest warrant from a court.

On Wednesday, Park replaced her prime minister and finance minister, a reshuffle denounced by political opponents as a bid to divert attention from a crisis that has pushed her approval rating to an all-time low.

Investigation calls

Members of opposition parties have called for prosecutors to investigate Park.

She has also faced calls from political opponents and a growing number of South Koreans to step down, although the main opposition parties have not raised the idea of launching impeachment proceedings.

Last weekend, Park accepted the resignations of eight of her top presidential aides, and on Thursday her office announced nominees for a new chief of staff and senior secretary for political affairs.

South Korea detains president’s confidant amid controversy

Prosecutors on Wednesday asked a court for a warrant to arrest Choi, 60, and are seeking to charge her with abuse of power and attempted fraud.

Choi was detained late on Monday.

Choi, who has been a confidant of Park’s for decades but held no formal government role, is alleged to have used her proximity to the president to meddle in state affairs.

Her lawyer has said he expects prosecutors to look into whether she inappropriately received classified documents.

Choi told South Korea’s Segye Ilbo newspaper last week that she received drafts of Park’s speeches after Park’s election victory but denied she had access to other official material, influenced state affairs or benefited financially.

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Source: News Agencies