South Korea’s President, Park retains lawyer as she tries to ride out her biggest crisis yet

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South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during an address to the nation, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ed Jones
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SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Park Geun-hye has retained a lawyer ahead of being questioned by prosecutors investigating a favours scandal engulfing her administration, her office said on Tuesday.

Park’s presidency has been rocked by allegations that a friend used her ties to meddle in state affairs and wield improper influence. Park will be the first sitting president to be questioned by prosecutors over a criminal case.

Her approval rating remains at an all-time low for a second week. Hundreds of thousands marched in the capital, Seoul, on Saturday demanding that she resign.

Park’s lawyer, Yoo Yeong-ha, a former member of the government’s National Human Rights Commission, will discuss arrangements with prosecutors for their questioning, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

“Yoo will discuss with prosecutors the questioning’s format, date and location,” a Blue House official said.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Park exerted improper pressure on “chaebol” conglomerate bosses to raise funds for foundations involving her friend, Choi Soon-sil, the Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday.

Yonhap said on Tuesday prosecutors had summoned Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, which if true would make him the latest head of a South Korean conglomerate to be questioned by investigators. Lotte Group could not confirm the report and prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

Other chaebol bosses, including Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo and Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho, were questioned last weekend.

Prosecutors are also investigating Choi, who has been detained since Oct. 31.

The leader of the main opposition party proposed talks with Park on Monday but later cancelled the offer due to strong party opposition.

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Another apology by Park and an offer to work with opposition to form a new cabinet and relinquish some of her powers failed to quell the crisis, prompting opponents to say she did not grasp its severity.

Park said earlier this month prosecutors should clarify what happened and that everyone involved should be held accountable, including herself, and take responsibility if found guilty.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Jack Kim; additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Nick Macfie)

 

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