South Korea's Park Geun Hye, rocked by scandal at home, to miss Apec summit

People watch a television screen showing an image of Park Geun Hye, South Korea's president, during a news broadcast at Seoul Station in Seoul on Oct 31, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korean President Park Geun Hye will miss a summit of Asia-Pacific economies this month in Peru, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday (Nov 8), as she tries to limit damage from a deepening political crisis at home.

Park's presidency has been rocked by allegations that a personal friend of hers used her ties to meddle in state affairs and wield improper influence.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho June Hyuck said the decision to miss the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum was made because of the North Korean nuclear crisis.

"It was already decided in September that the president will not attend this year's Apec summit," Cho told a briefing.

North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Sept 9 in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, sharply escalating tension on the Korean peninsula already troubled by Pyongyang's missile programme.

Park's absence at the Apec summit in Lima will mark the first time a leader of South Korea, a founding member, has not attended since 1993, the foreign ministry said.

Park has been severely bruised by the scandal involving her friend, Choi Soon Sil, who has been charged with abuse of power.

Park said on Tuesday she will withdraw her nominee for prime minister if parliament recommends a candidate and is willing to let the new premier control the cabinet, seeking to defuse the crisis.

Park's comments at a meeting with the speaker of parliament indicated she was willing to relinquish some control over state affairs - a key demand by opposition parties.

It was not clear whether the proposal to transfer more power to the premier, who is normally a figurehead, would include the job of representing the country diplomatically.

Park's chief foreign policy adviser said last week that she would attend a summit between China, Japan and South Korea, which is expected to be held this year.

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