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S. Korea prosecutors want to question president over scandal

Associated Press Associated Press 13/11/2016 By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press
FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 file photo, South Korean President Park Geun-hye bows before addressing the nation over a "heartbreaking" scandal at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. South Korean prosecutors are likely to question Park over suspicion that she let a shadowy longtime confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes, state-run Yonhap news agency reported Sunday, Nov. 13. (Ed Jones/Pool Photo via AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 file photo, South Korean President Park Geun-hye bows before addressing the nation over a "heartbreaking" scandal at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. South Korean prosecutors are likely to question Park over suspicion that she let a shadowy longtime confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes, state-run Yonhap news agency reported Sunday, Nov. 13. (Ed Jones/Pool Photo via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors want to question President Park Geun-hye this week over suspicion that she let a shadowy longtime confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes, an official said Sunday.

It would be the first time that a sitting South Korean president has been questioned by prosecutors. The explosive scandal is the most serious challenge for Park, whose public apologies have done little to calm public anger.

Prosecutors are seeking to question Park face-to-face on either Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, a prosecution official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was underway, said prosecutors conveyed their position to Park's office and were awaiting a response.

The president's office said earlier Sunday that it can work out its position on a Park investigation as early as Tuesday. It said it needs time to review when and how Park should be investigated.

In addition to allegedly manipulating power, the president's confidante, Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a late cult leader who emerged as Park's mentor in the 1970s, is also suspected of exploiting her presidential ties to bully companies into donating tens of millions of dollars to foundations she controlled.

Choi was formally arrested on Nov. 3 on charges of fraud and abuse of power. Prosecutors have until Nov. 20 to formally charge her.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people flooded Seoul's streets to demand Park's resignation in what may be South Korea's largest protest since it shook off dictatorship three decades ago.

In an attempt to stabilize the situation, Park said Tuesday that she would let the opposition-controlled parliament choose her prime minister. But opposition parties say her words are meaningless without specific promises about transferring much of her presidential powers to a new No. 2.

Under South Korean law, a sitting president has immunity from prosecution except in cases of treason, but many scholars say a president can still face investigation.

Park has 15 months left in her term. If she steps down before the end of it, an election must be held within 60 days.

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