South Korea president says scandal ‘my fault’

South Korea president says scandal ‘my fault’

SEOUL – Agence France-Presse
South Korea president says scandal ‘my fault’

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Nov. 4 said the scandal involving her long-time confidante Choi Soon-Sil was “all my fault,” and agreed to be questioned in a formal corruption probe. 

In a highly personal televised address to the nation, while accepting that the scandal was her fault, she denied reports linking her and Choi to a religious cult. 

She portrayed herself as an over-trusting, “lonely” leader who dropped her guard with a close friend, who was formally arrested Nov. 3 on charges of fraud and abuse of power, and also stands accused of meddling in affairs of state.

The scandal has shattered public trust in Park’s presidency, and a new Gallup poll showed her approval rating had plummeted to just five percent -- an all-time low for a sitting South Korean president.

“These latest developments are all my fault and were caused by my carelessness,” Park said, adding that she had suffered “excruciating heartbreak” for being the cause of so much public concern and distress.

A formal investigation is focused on allegations that Choi, 60, leveraged her close relationship with Park to coerce local firms into donating large sums to dubious non-profit foundations that she then used for personal gain.

Park said she would not seek to hide behind presidential privilege if required to give testimony.

“If necessary, I am willing to sincerely respond to prosecutors’ investigations,” she said.

South Korea’s constitution does not allow a sitting president to be prosecuted, but some senior officials have suggested questioning as part of a wider investigation is permissible.

Park, who appeared close to tears at times, said she had been living a “lonely life” as president and had turned to Choi for company and help.

“Looking back, I allowed my guard to drop as she stood by my side during difficult times,” she said.

“I trusted my personal relationship, but was careless and not tough enough with my acquaintances,” she added.