Asia

S Korean scandal: President Park's friend Choi returns to Seoul

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Media captionChoi Soon-sil had to run the gauntlet of media and protesters when she arrived at the prosecutor's office

The woman suspected of exploiting her links with South Korean President Park Geun-hye for financial gain has returned to the country to face the accusations.

Choi Soon-sil, a long-time friend of Ms Park, is accused of influence peddling and interfering in state affairs.

Ms Choi is alleged to have been involved in government business, despite having no security clearance.

It comes amid protests in Seoul demanding the president's resignation.

Police said about 8,000 protesters took to the streets on Saturday after Ms Park said she had ordered 10 of her senior advisers to quit and admitted she had allowed Ms Choi to edit political speeches.

Event organisers said some 20,000 people turned out in central Seoul.

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Image caption Protesters wear masks depicting South Korean President Park Geun-hye (bottom) under the control of Choi Soon-sil

On Saturday, prosecutors raided the homes of several presidential aides, seizing computers and files belonging to the officials who are suspected of being Ms Choi's accomplices.

Ms Choi is the daughter of shadowy religious cult leader Choi Tae-min, who was Ms Park's mentor until his death in 1994.

Ms Choi has denied benefiting financially from her government links.

'Step down, Park Geun-hye'

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Image caption Organisers say some 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Seoul

Protesters on the streets of Seoul held posters reading "Step down, Park Geun-hye".

She has been accused by opposition politician Jae-myung Lee of having "lost her authority as president".

"She doesn't have the basic qualities to govern a country," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption President Park has publicly apologised over the scandal
Image copyright EPA
Image caption A protester (right) wears a cut-out photograph of Choi Soon-sil

Ms Park's televised apology over the scandal last week failed to defuse the situation, only sparking widespread accusations of mismanagement.

The scandal has resulted in calls for her resignation from opposition parties and badly eroded her popularity before next year's elections.

Ms Park, 64, became the first woman to lead South Korea after winning presidential elections in 2012.

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