South Korean President Park Geun-hye appoints new chief of staff amid scandal

November 3, 2016 10:00 am

South Korean President

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has appointed a new chief of staff, part of sweeping reshuffles apparently meant to allay public outrage at a scandal involving one of her close associates.
The embattled South Korean leader picked Han Gwang-ok, the chairman of the Presidential Committee for National Cohesion, as her new chief of staff on Thursday, ’s Yonhap agency reported.
The 74-year-old Han, a veteran politician, had joined Park’s administration in 2013, when she assumed office.
In late October, Park accepted the resignation of several aides, including her then-presidential chief of staff, as the scandal revolving around her long-time friend, Choi Soon-sil, unfolded.
South Korean media have reported allegations that Choi pulled government strings from the shadows and pushed businesses to donate millions of dollars to two foundations she controlled to obtain money for her personal use and for Park’s post-retirement activities.
She is also accused of having had access to confidential government information even as she had no state post or security clearance. Prosecutors have leveled charges of abuse of power and attempted fraud against Choi, who has been detained.

Choi Soon-sil, the prime suspect behind the current crisis in South , arrives at the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office in Seoul, October 31, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The South Korean president has also named a new prime minister in a bid to restore public confidence amid the scandal. She reportedly intends to appoint a new chief secretary for policy coordination in the near future.
Mass street protests have been held in the capital, Seoul, and other cities to demand Park’s resignation. A large number of lawmakers have already openly called on Park to step down, too.
According to a survey published Tuesday, Park’s approval rating was now standing at 9.2 percent, an all-time low, with 67 percent of the voters saying she should step down.
Han, the new chief of staff, has promised to help the president “at this difficult time.”
On Tuesday, prosecutors widened their investigations into the case as police raided firms owned or run by Cha Eun-taek, a famous advertisement director and Choi’s close aide. He is also suspected of interfering in the government’s cultural projects.
Prosecutors have also sought access to data at four banks to obtain information on Choi’s financial transactions.
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