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Choi Soon-sil faces special probe

Choi Soon-sil, President Park Geun-hye's longtime friend who stands at the center of a massive influence-peddling and corruption scandal, appeared before special investigators Saturday to face questioning.

Choi's prime charge is that she exerted influence for personal interests and meddled in confidential state affairs, using her ties with the president -- a scandal which led the National Assembly to vote on impeaching the state chief earlier this month.

The 60-year-old suspect, wearing a prisoner uniform and horn-rimmed glasses, arrived at the independent counsel office in southern Seoul at around 2 p.m.

The counsel, aiming at probing further into the extensive scandal, kicked off on Wednesday and took over the investigation so far conducted by prosecutors.

"(Today's questioning) is about confirming Choi's side of the story, concerning the allegations revealed so far," said an official of the special probe team.

Choi did not answer any of the questions while entering the building.
 
Choi Soon-sil, key suspect in the influence-peddling scandal revolving around President Park Geun-hye, arrives at the independent counsel office on Saturday. Yonhap
Choi Soon-sil, key suspect in the influence-peddling scandal revolving around President Park Geun-hye, arrives at the independent counsel office on Saturday. Yonhap

Her visit followed that of Kim Chong, a former vice culture minister who was brought in early in the day as part of the investigation. Kim allegedly assisted Choi in forcing conglomerates to donate nearly 80 billion won ($66.5 million) to two foundations related to Choi.

The presidential confidante, in her appearance in court on Monday, had denied all major charges.

The circumstantial evidence have been building over the past months that the president let her friend make key state decisions behind the scene and that the latter used her illegitimate power for personal good. The revelation and the consequent denials kindled public anger, leading to record-breaking candlelight vigils across the nation.

The fate of President Park, currently suspended from all powers and substituted by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, depends on the Constutional Court's decision on whether or not to uphold the parliamentary impeachment resolution.

Meanwhile, protesters vowed to continue their weekend rallies until the disgraced president steps down from her post, which will immediately opening doors to an earlier-than-planned presidential election next year.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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