Plot Thickens in Crony Scandal https://t.co/v0AwIuNZYq— The Chosun Ilbo (@EnglishChosun) October 31, 2016
- sources are claiming that Choi Soon-sil's older sister Choi Soon-deuk is the real brains behind the operation, and that Soon-sil was her crony
- Soon-deuk and Park Geun-hye went to high school together
- When Park was attacked in 2007, she recuperated at Soon-doek's house and Soon-deok bragged about it
- Allegedly also bragged about being bribed with "bags of cash" by politicians seeking higher office
- Has also apparently passed her secrets on to her daughter
- Currently in hiding in Gangnam
More than 10,000 people have filled the streets of central Seoul to protest against President Park Geun-hye, her administration and a build-up of corruption scandals that have deepened public distrust in Government.
Ms Park's tenure has been turbulent — since taking office in 2013, a number of her appointed aides have been embroiled in corruption scandals.
Under her watch, more than 300 died in the Sewol ferry disaster due to negligence in public safety.
The economy remains in limbo while unemployment rates continue to rise.
Amid this, there has also been a marked deterioration of rights, including freedom of speech, with more crackdowns on protests critical of the Government — even resulting in a blacklist of political and civilian opponents.
But the tipping point that led to the mass candlelight vigil Saturday (local time), was the emergence of a woman named Choi Soon-sil.
"I have to express my anger and I couldn't just sit at home and do nothing," said Lee Young-ha, a young college student who came to the protest with her friends.
"I think everyone, myself included, is shocked that our president is not leading the country but being controlled by someone else who is pulling all the strings."
Ms Choi's personal relationship with Ms Park has long been known, dating back around 40 years.
However, she came under the spotlight following a string of political graft allegations among Ms Park's top aides.
Rumours spread that Ms Choi had been secretly advising Ms Park on all matters, from her fashion choices to policies on North Korea, despite not have any official position in the Government.
One of South Korea's local media outlets, JTBC, reported it had discovered a tablet PC left behind by Ms Choi, which contained nearly 200 confidential state documents, including 44 of the president's speeches.
Under growing speculation that Ms Choi was leading the country behind the scenes, Ms Park apologised earlier this week over the controversy and acknowledged she sought Ms Choi's counsel and shared certain internal documents with her in the process.
Since then, calls for the president's resignation have only intensified nationwide, with the latest poll on Friday showing her approval ratings dropping to an all-time low of 14 per cent.
"This is a failed democracy," said Jeong Jin-wook, who came out to protest with his wife and four-year-old son.
"We democratically voted in Park Geun-hye but she's not our president.
"As a father, I'm worried about my son's future so I came out to try to put the country back in the right direction."
Ms Choi is accused of embezzling millions, not only of public money, but also using her influence as a presidential confidant for private donations.
She is also suspected of using her clout to get her daughter preferential treatment at one of South Korea's top universities.
This is why many suggest Saturday's rally attracted such a large crowd, because Ms Choi's alleged acts highlight ongoing injustices.
Police estimate there were between 9,000-12,000 protesters but civic groups put the figure higher, to upwards of 30,000.
Although chants for the president to resign were rampant, many in the crowd also expressed concerns that without a thorough, transparent investigation, they would not be able to root out the problems facing the nation and ensure they will never happen again.
Analysts suggest that if Ms Park resigned or was impeached, there would be a leadership vacuum, which could ultimately hurt the country — especially because it would be more beneficial for the opposition to let Ms Park ride out the rest of her presidency as a humiliated, lame duck leader in order to gain the upper hand in next year's election.
In an attempt to clean up the situation, Ms Park ordered 10 of her senior secretaries to resign over the scandal.
Ms Choi, meanwhile, returned to South Korea on Sunday, following her pledge to cooperate with the prosecution's investigation.
"The investigation has been biased so far and protected the president," a protester said over loudspeaker.
"But isn't it more important to gain the public's trust?"
sources: @EnglishChosun | @abcnews | abc.net.au