South Korean president's concession could spell end of power

Park giving up the presidential prerogative to choose a prime minister will further weaken her politically.

Choi Soon-sil, the close confidante of President Park Geun-hye, is accused of using that relationship to accumulate millions of dollars in donations to her foundations.

With 15 months left in her term, some opposition lawmakers, and some members of her own party, would like Park to stay out of government completely. Local media describe a Svengali-like dynamic between Choi - whose father was said to have major influence over Park's father - and the president.

Even so, it is still unclear what a splintered parliament will decide on, or when - or what Park will agree to.

Meanwhile, South Korean prosecutors raided Samsung Electronic's offices on Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation into the scandal.

Park's comments at a meeting with the speaker of parliament indicated she was willing to relinquish some control over state affairs - a key demand by opposition parties.

Ms Park has since apologised on TV for allowing her long-standing friend inappropriate access to government policy-making.

Earlier Tuesday, South Korean prosecutors raided the Seoul office of Samsung Electronics, the nation's largest and most valuable company, in connection with the scandal. She already faces awful approval ratings and calls from the public to step down. The Yonhap news agency said investigators suspect Samsung gave Choi's daughter illicit financial help.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesman Cho June-hyuck cited the grave security situation on the Korean Peninsula as the official reason for her absence from the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) scheduled for November 19-20 in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

Reports of the unhealthy influence Choi wielded over Park have sent the president's approval ratings plunging to record lows and led to mass street protests calling on her to resign.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho June-hyuck said the decision to miss the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum was made because of the North Korean nuclear crisis.

It's an important political concession, given that the prime minister position in South Korea is mostly symbolic, with power being concentrated around the Presidential office.



Other news