Embattled S.Korea leader: Scandal "all my fault and mistake"


Choi was formally arrested on Thursday on fraud charges, but public anger has largely focused on allegations that she meddled in affairs of state and had access to confidential documents, despite having no official position or security clearance.

But she denied speculation that her presidency had been influenced by a cult or that shamanistic rituals had been held at the presidential compound. She is in the fourth year of a single five-year term and faced criticism even before this scandal, particularly for the government's response to a 2014 ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people.

A Gallup Korea poll published Friday showed her approval rating nosediving to a record-low of 5 percent from 17 percent a week earlier.

Despite her immunity from prosecution, investigators can look into South Korea's president over a scandal that centers on whether her longtime friend controlled the government from the shadows, the prime minister-designate said Thursday. "If it is necessary, I myself will accept being investigated by the prosecutors' office, or even a special prosecutor's investigation".

In a high-stakes address to the nation in the capital Seoul, Park Geun-hye, her voice shaking, said the scandal was "all my fault and mistake". When Park got his letter she invited him to meet, starting an association between the two families that has endured through to her own time in power.

South Korea's president is engulfed in a political scandal with plotlines straight out of a soap opera: rumors of secret advisers, nepotism and ill-gotten gains.

"I believe we can conduct an investigation into Park", Kim Byong-joon, Park's pick for prime minister, told reporters Thursday.

"Looking back, I allowed my guard to drop as she stood by my side during hard times", she said. Both her justice minister and her nominee for prime minister have said that it is possible Park will be investigated for wrong-doing.

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Ms Park's father was a military dictator who ruled South Korea for 18 years.

The shock scandal sparked nationwide protests urging Park's resignation, with prosecutors mulling launching a formal probe. Media here report that Park's political party expects her to apologize and perhaps accept an investigation into her actions.

Park Geun-hye trembled as she admitted tragedy and "loneliness" drove her to rely on old friend Choi Soon-sil, who is thought to have edited some of her speeches.

The prime minister-designate said it may take some time before he can meet with opposition party members, who have been demanding Park withdraw her nomination.

Her father led a religious cult and reportedly was a private mentor for Ms Park, whose parents each were assassinated in the 1970s.

In her address Friday, Park said she was willing to answer questions.

As is often the case, she held no question-and-answer session, but, in something of a surprise move, she approached the first row of assembled reporters where she stopped and said: "I feel really sorry for causing so much concern for you too". In the face of almost universal outrage among South Koreans, Park Geun-hye accepted full responsibility for an increasingly weird political scandal that threatens her presidency. Prosecutors on Friday requested an arrest warrant for ex-Park aide, Ahn Jong-beom, for his alleged involvement in extracting $70 million in donations. Opposition parties have described Park's personnel reshuffles as a tactic to divert attention from the scandal. South Korean prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Choi on Wednesday over allegations of influence-peddling and other activities.