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South Korea leader apologizes for affiliation with woman suspected of corruption

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea leader apologizes for affiliation with woman suspected of corruption
South Korean President Park Geun-hye issued a public apology on Tuesday after a local press report connected her to a longtime acquaintance suspected of corruption. Pool Photo by Andrew Harrer/Pool | License Photo

SEOUL, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye apologized on Tuesday for her connections to a longtime acquaintance who had secretly exerted influence on Park's speeches during her earlier years in office.

Park bowed deeply while making her public apology, a day after a South Korean news report connected the acquaintance, Choi Soon-sil, to the South Korean leader, local news service Newsis reported.

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Choi, and her two nonprofits, frequently referred to as the "Mir" and "K Sports" foundations, had been in the news for several weeks because of allegations of corruption.

But it was the report from JTBC network this week that may have prompted Park to take direct action and express her regrets about her past decisions.

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"I had set out with the purest of intentions to do a more thorough job when conducting this work but regardless of reason, I feel sorry for giving everyone an occasion to feel anxiety, surprise and hurt," Park said.

Park also said Choi was someone who "helped during a period of difficulty" and that the president turned to her acquaintance for advice on speeches and public relations during her presidential campaign.

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Park confirmed Choi continued to exert influence on executive decisions after she was elected to office, but the communication was terminated after new aides were appointed.

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While the president did not say when Choi ceased to receive executive communiqués, Newsis reported she had played a role in decisions between December 2012 and March 2014.

Choi had been part of some of Park's decision-making on a daily basis, according to South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh.

Lee Sung-han, a former executive with the Mir Foundation, said Choi would receive two thick binders from the presidential office almost everyday, the report stated.

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Choi would also invite leading South Korean creative professionals to meetings to discuss issues related to the president, including Cha Eun-taek, a leading advertising director, according to South Korean press reports.

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