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S. Korean president says to accept investigation over scandal if necessary

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-04 10:10

S. Korean president says to accept investigation over scandal if necessary

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye bows prior to delivering an address to the nation, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 4, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Friday that she will accept an investigation into herself, if necessary, by prosecutors over a scandal surrounding Choi Soon-sil, the president's longtime confidante suspected of intervening into state affairs.

Park made the remarks at her second public address on Friday morning over the political scandal that sparked calls for her resignation.

Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong told lawmakers on Thursday that a direct probe into the president could be suggested if an ongoing investigation requires it.

Park vowed to cooperate as much as possible to get to the bedrock, saying she already instructed her secretariat to provide active cooperation for the ongoing investigation.

The embattled president also accepted an independent prosecutor probe into the case involving her close friend accused of peddling undue influence and meddling in government decisions behind the scenes.

Park apologized once again for the scandal, after she made her first public apology last week and acknowledged that she gained personal advice on some of her speeches and public relations issues during her 2012 presidential election campaign and during her initial presidency.

The acknowledgement triggered public outrage nationwide, which gathered tens of thousands of protesters last Saturday night in central Seoul alone who shouted for Park's resignation or impeachment. This Saturday, about 30,000 to 50,000 people are forecast to gather in Seoul for rally.

Park's acceptance of an investigation, though she added a precondition of "if necessary," came amid a snowballing public furor over the first South Korean female leader on allegations involving Choi and former presidential secretaries.

A Seoul court approved an arrest warrant last night for Choi on charges of fraud and abuse of power. The 60-year-old woman has been placed under emergency detention since Monday. She came back to Seoul on Sunday after staying abroad for about two months.

Prosecutors allegedly plans to seek an arrest warrant on Friday for Ahn Jong-beom, former senior presidential secretary on policy coordination suspected of helping Choi pressure conglomerates into donating tens of millions of U.S. dollars to two nonprofit foundations that Choi actually controls.

Chung Ho-seong, former presidential secretary, was urgently arrested by prosecutors on Thursday night as he is accused of having brought confidential documents for the president to Choi, including reports on defense, diplomatic and economic affairs.

If the investigation into the president was launched, Park would become the first South Korean leader who is investigated by prosecutors as incumbent president. Under the country's constitution, a president is free from being criminally indicted by prosecutors during his or her presidency except for treason and insurrection charges.

Some legal experts, however, claimed that the president can be subject to criminal investigation on condition that the indictment is suspended until the end of presidency.

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