South Korean President Park Accepts Chief of Staff’s Resignation

  • Park also names two top aides amid influence-peddling scandal
  • Park’s public approval dips to new low after Tuesday apology

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has accepted her chief of staff’s resignation as she begins to overhaul her office amid a public outcry over an influence-peddling scandal.

Lee Won-jong offered to resign earlier this week after Park’s approval rating sank to an all-time low amid allegations that her old friend, Choi Soon-sil, used their friendship to meddle in state affairs. The president also accepted resignations of four other chief secretaries, her spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said in a televised briefing Sunday.

Park Geun-Hye

Photographer: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Park apologized on Tuesday over consulting Choi on “some documents” for a period after she took office in 2013. Those comments fanned suspicions that Choi, a private citizen, may have had significant influence over Park throughout her presidency. The ruling Saenuri Party on Sunday said it would seek a coalition government in which parliament would have the power to appoint cabinet ministers, echoing calls among some opposition lawmakers.

Calls for a neutral government aren’t new in South Korea. They have surfaced in the past when scandals hounded presidents, before eventually fading. In 2002, a group of lawmakers called on President Kim Dae-jung to agree to a coalition government when a corruption scandal involving his son sent his approval tumbling.

An Chong-bum, Park’s chief adviser on policy coordination, is among those who was dismissed Sunday. Opposition lawmakers have accused him of pressuring a business lobby group into donating tens of millions of dollars to foundations controlled by Choi. An denied the allegations at a parliamentary hearing. Still, his office was among those prosecutors raided over the weekend.

Public Apology

Choi Soon-sil, who returned to Seoul on Sunday, apologized to the public and agreed to cooperate with investigators, her lawyer Lee Kyung-jae told reporters in a televised briefing. Both the ruling and opposition parties called for an immediate arrest and questioning after Choi had asked for a day to rest before speaking with prosecutors because she was “not in good health and also tired after a long flight.”

Park named two people as her new chief advisers on civil affairs and public relations, Jung said. She will appoint other secretaries soon, Jung said.

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