South Korean President Park Geun-hye says she is solely to blame for an ongoing crisis involving an old friend of hers who allegedly meddled in state affairs despite having no formal position.
Speaking in an emotionally-charged, televised address to the nation on Friday, President Park said the scandal was “all my fault,” and apologized for “causing this disappointment and distress.”
A political crisis gripped South Korea when media first alleged that Park’s long-time friend and confidante, Choi Soon-sil, had had access to potentially confidential government data and was exerting undue influence on the president through shamanism and cult rituals.
“I blame myself for everything,” she said on the brink of tears. “This is all my fault, and I take full responsibility.”
She also said she was ready to be questioned by prosecutors investigating the case in a personal deviation from the South Korean constitution, which does not allow a sitting president to be prosecuted.
“If necessary, I am willing to sincerely respond to prosecutors’ investigations,” she said.
“I trusted my personal relationship, but was careless and not tough enough with my acquaintances,” she said.
“There have been claims that I fell for a religious cult or had (shamanist rituals) performed in the Blue House, but I would like to clarify that those are absolutely not true,” Park said.
Choi Soon-sil (masked), a friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, leaves after attending an investigation session at a court in Seoul, November ۳, ۲۰۱۶. (Photo by AFP)
Choi, ۶۰, is being held in custody, and prosecutors have demanded charges of abuse of power and attempted fraud against her.
Opposition parties also accuse Choi of abusing her relationship with the president to coerce companies into donating millions of dollars to foundations run by her.
Park’s relationship with Choi and her late father, Choi Tae-min, has long been a source of controversy in the south Asian country. But never before had the allegations of Choi’s influence-peddling had the current impact.
Their relationship dates back to an era when Park served as acting first lady. The elder Choi, a shadowy religious figure, gradually became a mentor to Park after her mother was killed in an assassination in ۱۹۷۴ while her father, Park Chung-hee, was president.
Five years later, in ۱۹۷۹, Park’s father was also murdered, by his spy chief, who later cited the younger Choi’s relationship with Geun-hye as one of the reasons for the then-president’s assassination.