Park Geun-hye

South Korea prosecutors raid Samsung Electronics in Park scandal probe

The raid was part of probe into the influence-peddling scandal involving a close friend of President Park Geun-hye

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 11:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 11:11am

South Korean prosecutors raided the offices of Samsung Electronics on Tuesday as part of a probe over a political scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her friend who is alleged to have exerted improper influence in state affairs.

A prosecution official said the search is related to the scandal involving the president’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, but declined to comment further.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported prosecutors are looking into whether Samsung improperly provided financial assistance to Choi’s daughter.

Samsung Electronics, reeling from a $5.4 billion profit hit after it was forced to discontinue its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, said prosecutors visited its office but declined to comment further.

Park’s presidency has been rocked by the scandal involving Choi, who is alleged to have used her closeness to the president to meddle in state affairs and wield influence in the sports and cultural communities.

The political scandal that threatens to topple South Korea’s president, began with a card game in Macau

Choi has been charged abuse of power and fraud while a former aide has been charged with abuse of power and extortion after they helped raise 77.4 billion won ($68 million) from dozens of the country’s biggest conglomerates on behalf of two foundations.

Prosecutors have been investigating an allegation that Samsung provided 2.8 million euros ($3.1 million) to a company co-owned by Choi and her daughter, who was previously a member of the South Korean national equestrian team, Yonhap reported.

Park Sang-jin, a Samsung Electronics president for corporate relations, is currently head of Korea Equestrian Federation. Yonhap said his office was part of the prosecutor’s raid Tuesday morning. Park Sang-jin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors have already questioned a Samsung executive as part of the probe, according to a prosecution source.

Yonhap reported prosecutors were also raiding the offices of the Korea Equestrian Federation and the Korea Horse Affairs Association.

The Korea Equestrian Federation declined to comment on Yonhap report, and the Korea Horse Affairs Association did not immediately comment.

The raids come as Park visited parliament on Tuesday and met the speaker to discuss how to resolve the political crisis.

She said she would accept the National Assembly’s choice of a new prime minister, and withdraw her own nomination if necessary, in the wake of the scandal.

Yonhap News Agency reported that Park met with the assembly’s speaker, and quoted her as saying afterwards that “if the National Assembly recommends a new premier, I will appoint him and let him control the Cabinet.”

Opposition leaders had demanded Park withdraw her nominee for prime minister and agree to a candidate acceptable to them as a precondition to meeting her to discuss a solution to the crisis that has thrown her government into limbo.

Park has publicly apologised twice for the scandal but her approval rating has plunged to 5 per cent according to a Gallup poll released on Friday, the lowest since such polling began in 1988.

No South Korean president has failed to finish their five-year term, but Park has faced growing pressure from the public and some hardline political opponents to quit. Park’s term is due to end in early 2018 and the main opposition parties have not raised the idea of launching impeachment proceedings.

Additional reporting by Kyodo