SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye was forced into a public apology on Tuesday for the leak of official documents to a family associate involved in a growing corruption scandal.
“I deeply apologise to the people,” Park said in a televised speech, before bowing deeply to the camera.
South Korean prosecutors are currently investigating Park’s longtime friend Choi Soon-Sil over allegations that she used her relationship with the president to strong-arm conglomerates into multi-million dollar donations to two non-profit foundations.
Park had sought to distance herself from the case, but was brought into focus by a TV report on Monday that Choi had been given advance copies of presidential speeches and may have had a hand in revising some of them.
The report was based on 200 files on Choi’s computer — retrieved from her office after she left the country as the influence-peddling scandal broke.
Her present whereabouts are unknown.
Describing Choi as someone who helped her during “difficult times”, Park admitted that she had sought Choi’s opinion on her speeches and unspecified “PR materials” for her election campaign and after she took office in February 2013.
“I have listened to her opinion on certain materials for some time but stopped after I had appointed my presidential aides,” Park said.
Choi is the daughter of the late religious figure Choi Tae-Min, who was known to be a key mentor of the current president up to his death in 1994.
The investigation into Choi and the suspicion that she exerted undue influence over Park have damaged the president, whose popularity ratings have sunk to record lows.
On Monday, Park had announced a review of the constitutional limit on presidential terms — a headline-grabbing move that opposition lawmakers suggested was aimed at deflecting attention from the Choi probe.