SEOUL, South Korea
South Korean prosecutors on Sunday formally arrested two former presidential aides as they bring their investigation over a bizarre political scandal that has engulfed the nation a step closer to President Park Geun-hye.
Park has issued consecutive apologies following suspicion that she allowed her longtime friend and daughter of a late cult leader to manipulate power from the shadows.
But the apologies did little to assuage simmering public anger, which culminated in the largest anti-government rally in the capital in nearly a year on Saturday when tens of thousands of people demanded that Park step down.
The Seoul Central District Court granted prosecutors’ request for the arrest of Ahn Jong-beom, Park’s former senior secretary for policy coordination who is suspected of pressuring companies into making large donations to nonprofit organizations controlled by Park’s friend, court spokesman Shin Jae-hwan said.
The court also issued an arrest warrant for Jung Ho-sung, another former presidential aide accused of passing on classified presidential documents to Choi Soon-sil, whose close relationship with Park triggered the scandal.
Prosecutors on Sunday also summoned for questioning Woo Byung-woo, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs who has been blamed for failing to prevent Choi from influencing state affairs and is embroiled in separate corruption allegations surrounding his family.
Park has admitted that she sent drafts of her speeches to Choi for editing. However, she avoided more damning allegations raised by the media that Choi perhaps meddled in important government decisions on policy and personnel. Choi was arrested earlier in the week on charges of abuse of authority and attempted fraud.
Park has tried to stabilize the situation by firing eight aides and nominating three new top Cabinet officials, including the prime minister, but opposition parties have described her personnel reshuffles as a diversionary tactic.
Opposition parties, sensing weakness, immediately threatened to push for her ouster if she doesn’t distance herself from domestic affairs and transfer the duties to a prime minister chosen by parliament.
Park has 15 months left in her term.