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Park suspected of colluding with friend, aides in corruption: prosecution

President Park Geun-hye is suspected of having played a part in the corruption and influence-peddling scheme involving her close friend and key aides, prosecutors said Sunday, after weeks of an intensive investigation into the scandal that has been rocking the country.

The prosecution team looking into the scandal announced in an interim probe result that it indicted Choi Soon-sil, Park's longtime friend, earlier in the day on a string of charges, including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud.

An Chong-bum, former senior secretary for policy coordination, was indicted on the same day for allegedly collaborating with Choi, it said. Jeong Ho-seong, who served as former senior secretary for private presidential affairs, will also stand trial on charges of handing over governmental and presidential documents to Choi.

President Park Geun-hye is suspected of colluding with the three suspects in many of the allegations raised, according to the prosecution.

Still, the prosecution said it cannot indict Park, citing the Constitution, which stipulates that the country's president is immune from indictment except in cases of insurrection or treason.

Lee Young-ryeol, the chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office who headed the team investigating the influence-peddling scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidante, announces the interim probe results during a press briefing at the prosecution's office in Seoul on Nov. 20.(Yonhap)
Lee Young-ryeol, the chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office who headed the team investigating the influence-peddling scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidante, announces the interim probe results during a press briefing at the prosecution's office in Seoul on Nov. 20.(Yonhap)
"Based on such judgment, the special probe team will continue investigating the president," said Lee Young-ryeol, the chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, who heads the team.

The indictment came as Park accelerated her resumption of state affairs, naming new vice ministers, despite calls for her to step down over the scandal.

On Thursday, her attorney Yoo Yeong-ha effectively rejected prosecutors' repeated demand for her to undergo questioning over her possible role in the alleged irregularities before they press charges against Choi. Yoo said he will prepare for the interrogation so it can take place sometime this week.

Park's approval rating remained at a record-low 5 percent last week, according to local pollster Gallup Korea, amid a series of anti-Park rallies held throughout the country.

On Nov. 12, some hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets in the largest number since the democratization of the country decades ago. Organizers said up to 1 million people took part in the protest, demanding Park's resignation, while police put the number at 260,000.

Another massive anti-Park rally was held in downtown Seoul on Saturday for the fourth straight weekend. (Yonhap)

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