Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong and Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Choi Jai-kyung offered to resign earlier this week, after President Park Geun-hye was named as an accomplice in the extensive corruption scandal involving her close friend, according to Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday.
This was the first time that a member of the Cabinet or the presidential secretariat resigned since the Choi Soon-sil scandal broke out late October.
Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong (left) and Senior Presidential Secretary Choi Jai-kyung (Yonhap)
“The justice minister and the civil affairs senior secretary offered their resignations, but it hasn’t been decided whether the president will accept (them),” the Blue House spokesperson Jung Youn-kuk told reporters in a text message.
His explanation came amid burgeoning reports that the officials had made the move to take responsibility for the outcome of a prosecutorial probe into the scandal surrounding Choi.
“Under the current circumstances, it is only right that I should step down,” the ministry quoted Kim as saying upon offering his resignation on Monday.
The prosecution’s unprecedented decision Sunday to include the incumbent president as a suspect in the corruption case had drawn strong resistance from Cheong Wa Dae.
The presidential office, referring to the allegations against the president as “mere conjecture,” refused to cooperate in attempts to question Park.
The tension between the president and the investigators is thought to have exerted pressure upon the justice minister, who is the chief supervisor for the prosecution, as well as the civil affairs senior secretary, who is in charge of the Blue House‘s legal affairs.
But despite their announcement that they were “taking responsibility,” political observers also suggested that the two ranking officials may be attempting to avoid blame for a situation that is apparently becoming worse for the president.
The feud-ridden president came under fire yet again Wednesday, following a report showing that the Blue House had purchased a list of unexplained medicines, including the renowned erectile dysfunction drug Viagra.
Though a presidential spokesperson claimed that the disputed drug was a provision against the president‘s altitude sickness during her overseas trips, the drug list continued to amplify the already-extensive public distrust in the state chief.
The president now faces an in-depth probe by an incoming independent counsel and the likelihood of an impeachment motion proposed by opposition parties.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org