South Korean President Park Geun-hye has announced she has asked parliament to help her find a way to step down.
Park Geun-hye faced growing calls to resign amid an investigation into whether she allowed close friend Choi Soon-sil to influence political decisions for personal gain.
The president said she would “leave to parliament everything about my future including shortening of my term”, but did not want to leave a power vacuum.
Parliament was due to discuss on December 2 whether President Park Geun-hye should face impeachment.
Opposition parties have said Park Geun-hye should step down “honorably” before it reached that point.
Image source Wikimedia
Park Geun-hye has apologized twice on national TV before, and has said she is “heartbroken” by the political crisis around her, but has refused to resign.
In November 29 TV address, her third since reports of the scandal began, Park Geun-hye said she would resign “once lawmakers come up with measures to transfer power in a way that minimizes any power vacuum and chaos in governance”.
A spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party, Youn Kwan-suk, said the speech was a “trick” which “lacked reflection”.
“What people want is her immediate resignation, not dragging out and dodging the responsibility to the parliament,” he told the Yonhap news agency.
The scandal stems from Park Geun-hye’s relationship with Choi Soon-sil.
Choi Soon-sil is accused of trying to extort huge sums of money from South Korean companies.
She is also suspected of using her friendship with Park Geun-hye to solicit business donations for a non-profit fund she controlled.
Choi Soon-sil is in police detention, facing a string of charges.
The allegations have reached across South Korean politics and industry. Two of Park Geun-hye’s aides have also been charged along with a pop music producer.
The offices of the national pension fund have been raided as have several major Korean companies including Lotte and Samsung.
Investigators believe Park Geun-hye had a “considerable” role in the alleged corruption, but the president’s representatives have said the accusations are a “fantasy”.
In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans have joined huge street protests across the country demanding that Park Geun-hye leave office.
Ahn Jong-beom, a former aide to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, has been placed under emergency detention, prosecutors say.
He is the second aide to be detained in a scandal which is threatening Park Geun-hye’s position.
Ahn Jong-beom and Park Geun-hye’s long-time friend and mentor Choi Soon-sil are suspected of using their presidential connections to persuade corporations to donate funds to foundations they were involved with.
Choi Soon-sil was detained on October 31 and is still being held.
Ahn Jong-beom had told reporters on November 2 he would take responsibility for his actions, the Yonhap news agency reports, without giving further details.
He has been placed under emergency detention to prevent the possibility of him tampering with evidence, prosecutors said. They have 48 hours to formally request an arrest warrant in court.
On November 2, prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Choi Soon-sil. Seoul Central District Court is due to review the request on November 3, a court spokesman said.
Several banks have also been raided in connection with the controversy, which has prompted widespread anger.
Park Geun-hye responded to the crisis on November 2 by reshuffling her government, appointing a new finance minister and prime minister – a largely symbolic role in South Korea.
Surveys suggest Park Geun-hye’s approval rating is about 10%, with about half of respondents saying she should resign or face impeachment.
Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a political scandal threatening South Korean President Park Geun-hye, has been detained.
The woman, a long-time friend of President Park Geun-hye, is accused of influence peddling and interfering in state affairs.
Prosecutors have 48 hours since Choi Soon-sil’s detention on October 31 to decide if they will formally arrest her.
Yesterday, eight banks were raided in connection with the scandal, South Korean media reported.
The Yonhap news agency said the authorities were looking to confiscate documents related to Choi Soon-sil’s financial transactions.
Image source Getty Images
She has been accused of embezzling money and of pressuring companies to donate to foundations she benefitted from, on the basis of her closeness to the president.
Choi Soon-sil also stands accused of involvement in high-level presidential decision making, despite lacking the security clearance required to handle classified documents.
She was placed under emergency detention on October 31 with prosecutors saying they feared she may destroy evidence.
“She has fled overseas in the past, and she doesn’t have a permanent address in Korea, making her a flight risk,” a prosecution official told Yonhap.
“She is also in an extremely unstable psychological state.”
Choi Soon-sil had told reporters on October 31 that she “committed a sin that deserves death”.
On November 1, a 45-year-old man who said he wanted to “help Choi Soon-sil die” drove a construction vehicle into the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ office.
Choi Soon-sil was not inside the building, but a security guard was injured in the attack and the building was damaged.
Last week, President Park Geun-hye publicly apologized, admitting “certain documents” had been shared with Choi Soon-sil and she had been allowed to edit political speeches.
“Choi advised me on expressions in my speeches and public relations during the last presidential campaign and she continued to help me for a certain period of time after I took office,” Park Geun-hye said.
“I deeply apologize to the people,” she said, before bowing to the camera.
That did little to suppress public anger and about 8,000 people protested on October 29, some calling for Park Geun-hye’s resignation.