South Korea has issued arrest warrants for two former aides of President Park Geun-hye, who is embroiled in a political scandal after her confidante Choi Soon-sil was arrested Thursday for allegedly meddling in the affairs of the government and exerting influence on the president.
The president’s former senior advisor for policy, Ahn Jong-beom, is facing charges of abuse of power and attempted extortion and was already in custody, Reuters reported Sunday. Private secretary Jeong Ho-seong was arrested late Thursday and is suspected of leaking confidential documents to Choi, the figure at the center of the scandal.
Choi is facing allegations of exerting influence on economic, foreign and defense policies adopted by Park, in her capacity as the president’s close aide and spiritual adviser. She has also been accused of taking home part of the $70 million she received from major South Korean companies for two of her foundations.
Park, who has just over a year left in office, has been facing a severe backlash with thousands of people taking to the streets to demand her resignation. The president has refused to resign over the scandal, but has apologized.
In an apology aired Friday on TV, an emotional Park said her “heart was breaking” over the scandal, and reiterated that she will cooperate with the investigation. She also admitted that allowing Choi access to government policymaking was an error on her part.
There were rumors of cultish rituals — Choi’s father was the leader of a cult — being performed in the presidential palace. However, Park has denied the allegations in her address.
Park, who has served almost four years of her term, has seen a sharp plunge in her approval ratings, which have fallen to just 5 percent — the lowest since such polling began in 1988, according to a survey released Friday. Protesters in the country have been very vocal about their disapproval of Park’s actions and are rallying with posters portraying her as a puppet in the hands of Choi.