South Korea President Park agrees to be questioned, apologises again for political scandal

South Korea's President Park Geun Hye bows prior to delivering an address to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Nov 4, 2016.
South Korea's President Park Geun Hye bows prior to delivering an address to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Nov 4, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun Hye has apologised again for the influence peddling scandal rocking the nation and said she will accept a special investigation on allegations involving her long-time friend. 

In a televised national address on Friday morning (Nov 4), she acknowledged that “it’s all my fault” and said she will take responsibility for the damaging scandal that has fuelled public anger and led to numerous calls for her to step down. 

The latest Gallup poll shows that her approval rating has plunged to a mere 5 per cent, down from 10 per cent earlier this week. 

With tears brimming in her eyes and her voice trembling, Ms Park said her “heart was breaking” and that “it’s hard to forgive myself”. 

“I sincerely apologise to the nation for causing so much disappointment,” she said. “Everyone has to take responsibility for his wrongdoing, and I will do the same.” 

Pressure has been mounting for the 64-year-old president to subject herself  to investigations as public resentment grew over how she allegedly allowed her friend Choi Soon Sil, 60, to abuse their friendship to meddle in state affairs for her own gain. 

If Ms Park does face questioning, she will be the first sitting president in South Korean history to be probed by prosecutors. 

 

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Her remarks came 10 days after she first apologised on Oct 25 for allowing Ms Choi to edit some of her speeches. 

Ms Choi is being investigated by prosecutors for allegations of fraud and abuse of authority. Two of Ms Park’s former aides Ahn Jong Beom and Jeong Ho Seong, have also been detained for alleged links to Ms Choi. 

Ms Park has been trying to contain the scandal by replacing her key aides and nominating university professor Kim Byong Joon as the new Prime Minister to take over the running of domestic affairs from her.

Her speech on Friday may diffuse some of the tension she faces in pushing forward with the appointment. As she has  nominated Prof Kim  without consulting the National Assembly, many opposition lawmakers have threatened to boycott parliamentary hearings needed to endorse him.

Calls for Ms Park’s resignation are still raging, and thousands of people are expected to take to the streets this weekend to protest and demand for her to step down. 

changmc@sph.com.sg