Net tightens on South Korea′s Park as prosecutors raid key offices | News | DW | 24.11.2016
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Net tightens on South Korea's Park as prosecutors raid key offices

South Korean prosecutors have raided the Finance Ministry and the headquarters of two of the country's biggest companies. An ongoing corruption scandal is threatening to engulf President Park Geun-Hye.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye faces allegations her government offered policy favors to firms that contributed to foundations controlled by Park's secret confidante, Choi Soon-Sil.

Prosecutors allege the president colluded with Choi to extract money from the companies and will question Park as part of a criminal investigation.

SK - the country's third-largest company and largest wireless operator - reportedly donated 11.1 billion won (8.9 million euros, $9.4 million) and Lotte - a retail and food giant and the country's fifth largest firm - reportedly gave 4.9 billion won.

This was, they alleged, in return for lucrative state licenses for duty-free businesses, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The customs service, which oversees duty-free licenses, was also raided.

In 2015, both SK and Lotte lost some of their licenses to run duty-free businesses, which largely target the rising number of Chinese visitors to the country. Both firms were reportedly seeking to win them back at another auction scheduled for December.

Thursday's raid came a day after prosecutors searched the headquarters of Samsung Group over allegations it bribed Choi to win state approval for a controversial merger in 2015.

Political fallout

The Democratic Party (DP) - the main opposition party with 121 seats in the 300-member parliament - said on Thursday it is working towards impeachment proceedings against Park and was aiming to put a motion to a vote early in December.

Choi Soon-sil (C) surrounded by the media on her arrival at a prosecutor's office in Seoul, October 31

Choi Soon-sil (C) surrounded by the media on her arrival at a prosecutor's office in Seoul, October 31

An impeachment motion requires at least half of the parliament to start and needs a two-thirds majority to pass, which means opposition parties must garner votes from Park's own ruling People's Party for the motion to be carried.

Most of the members of Park's party have yet to indicate their positions.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Seoul on Saturday in the fourth straight weekend of protests against Park. It was the biggest public demonstration in South Korea since the 1980s.

Park's five-year term ends in February 2018.

jbh/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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