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South Korean President Park accepts Chief of Staff's resignation

Monday, October 31, 2016 - 07:52

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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.

[SEOUL] 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 Ms 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.

Ms Park apologised on Tuesday over consulting Ms Choi on "some documents" for a period after she took office in 2013. Those comments fanned suspicions that Ms Choi, a private citizen, may have had significant influence over Park throughout her presidency.

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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, Ms 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 Mr Choi. An denied the allegations at a parliamentary hearing. Still, his office was among those prosecutors raided over the weekend.

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 Ms 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."

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

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