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Ally of South Korea’s Park faces scandal

SEOUL – The woman at the heart of a lurid political scandal engulfing South Korean President Park Geun-Hye returned to the country yesterday to face accusations of influence-peddling and meddling in state affairs.

With just over a year left to run, Park’s presidency has unravelled over shocking revelations that she discussed and sought advice on government policy from Choi Soon-Sil, a close personal friend with no official position and no security clearance.

Choi, who has been holed up in Germany since early September, flew into Seoul early yesterday morning on a flight from London, her lawyer Lee Kyung-Jae told reporters.

“Choi told me she will cooperate with the investigation and expressed her deep apology to the people for letting them down and causing them frustration,” Lee said.

As well as a public uproar over her relationship with, and apparent control over Park, she faces charges of using her links with the president to strong-arm major companies like Samsung into donating large sums to two non-profit foundations she set up.

Choi has spoken with prosecutors to schedule her questioning, Lee said.

The past week has a seen a daily diet of increasingly sensational media reports regarding Choi, the 60-year-old daughter of a shadowy religious leader and one-time Park mentor.

Invoking a lurid back-story of religious cults, shamanist rituals, and corruption, the reports have portrayed Choi as a Rasputin-like figure whose influence extended to vetting presidential speeches and advising on key appointments and policy issues. (AFP)