The offices of the world's third-largest pension fund have been raided over possible links to the scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye. Politicians in the ruling party are also preparing for elections.
Investigators have raided the National Pension Service (NPS) over possible links to the scandal which threatens to make Park the first democratically elected South Korean president to leave office before the end of her term.
The special prosecutor's office is reviewing the decision last year by NPS to back the $8 billion (7.6 billion euro) merger of two Samsung Group affiliates, of which NPS was a major shareholder. The fund was criticized for strengthening the founder family's control of the group at the expense of other shareholders.
Investigators are examining Samsung's support of a business and foundations linked to Choi Soon-sil, Park's long-time friend who is in custody and on trial for fraud and abuse of power. There are suggestions the support may have been linked to NPS' backing of the merger.
A Ministry of Health and Welfare spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday that an office at the ministry that administers the NPS had been raided.
The NPS is a public pension fund in South Korea with $430 billion in assets. It is the largest investor in the country.
Parliament has voted to impeach Park. The decision has to be confirmed or overturned by the Constitutional Court.
Arrest warrant for Choi Soon-sil's daughter
An arrest warrant for Chung Yoo-ra was issued on Wednesday, according to Reuters news agency. Chung is the 20-year-old daughter of Choi Soon-sil. Her lawyer said she was in Germany.
"We have Chung's arrest warrant on several charges including obstruction of justice and we plan to request the cooperation of German prosecutors based on these charges," Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the special prosecutor's office, said at a press conference.
Lee said authorities wanted to have Chung's South Korean passport invalidated. They have asked German prosecutors for information on her whereabouts and her financial assets. Chung competed in the 2014 Asian Games and won a gold medal in an equestrian team competition.
There has been public outrage over corruption and preferential treatment given to Chung for her education. There is faith and trust in educational fairness where students work hard to take advantage of what has been a meritocratic system. But when Chung applied to Ewha Womans' University in 2014 she was admitted at the expense of other candidates with better qualifications and given a perfect attendance record despite missing some classes. She also received unexpectedly high grades.
On Facebook in 2014, Chung wrote: "Money is part of your talent. If you don't have talent, blame your parents."
Ruling party divided
Separately, more than 30 lawmakers from Park's Saenuri party, who supported the impeachment vote against her, announced plans to break from the party. It currently holds 128 seats in the 300-member chamber.
Should Park leave office early, an election would have to be held within 60 days. The country's prime minister is currently exercising presidential power and the next presidential election is still scheduled for December 2017.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has regularly led opinion polls and was widely expected to run as the presidential nominee of the Saenuri party. But he does not step down from his current post until the end of the year, which means he has been unable to campaign actively.
Last week Ban said he planned to return to South Korea and "consider seriously" how best to serve his country. He described what he called the "turmoil" of the impeachment crisis and stressed the need for a "new type of inclusive leadership."
jm/sms (Reuters, AFP, EFE)