South Korea’s impeached President Park Geun-hye has denied all allegations against her in a massive political scandal.
In a New Year’s meeting with reporters Sunday — her first such public appearance since the Dec. 9 parliamentary impeachment — Park criticized the claims against her, describing them as “distorted and false” suspicions, and “erroneous” media coverage.
Local news agency Yonhap also quoted her as vowing to “conscientiously” respond to an ongoing probe in which she is being investigated for alleged abuse of power, coercion and leaking of official secrets.
Amid the political scandal, millions of South Koreans have joined protests across the country over the past ten weekends, ever since media revelations began to intensify in October about alleged power abuse and influence-peddling at the highest levels of state affairs.
A decades-long friend and apparent advisor to Park, Choi Soon-sil, has been a figure of major public scrutiny since she was interrogated by state prosecutors at the end of October.
Along with several presidential aides, the pair are accused of influence-peddling through corporate donations, and Choi is additionally suspected of secretly steering state affairs despite not having a public position.
After Park’s parliamentary impeachment, the Constitutional Court has up to six months to either support the move or reinstate her.
“Rumors, stories and broadcasts have been distorted, and false information has been getting out of hand,” Park said Sunday at the presidential office.
“Misunderstandings have begotten misunderstandings, and erroneous reports led to the reproduction of other erroneous reports… I feel heavy-hearted.”
On Saturday, special prosecutors questioned pension chief Moon Hyung-pyo over suspicions surrounding the National Pension Service’s (NPS) backing for a contentious merger of Samsung Group affiliates last year — a stakeholder in both companies, the NPS did not follow the expected path of seeking advice from an independent panel.
Local media reported late Tuesday that a former head of the NPS asset management division admitted during questioning by investigators that the welfare ministry — then led by Moon — pressured the fund to back the 2015 Samsung merger, helping to ease the group’s family power transition despite opposition from shareholders such as American hedge fund Elliott Associates.
The iconic Korean conglomerate was, moreover, the biggest donor to a pair of nonprofit foundations linked to Choi, whose equestrian athlete daughter was supported by Samsung.
The special investigation officially took over from regular prosecutors last week, and is running alongside separate legal proceedings.