SEOUL, Oct. 25 (Korea Bizwire) – President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday apologized to the nation over a leak of dozens of presidential speeches to an acqaintance who has been at the center of an escalating corruption scandal that has roiled politics over the past month.
“Regardless of the reasons involved, I am sorry that (the scandal) has caused national concerns,” she said. “I deeply apologize to the people.”
Park’s apology came a day after local broadcaster JTBC revealed that Choi Soon-sil had received dozens of presidential speeches, including Park’s election campaign remarks, before they were delivered by the president.
The broadcaster said it found the speeches from about 200 files obtained from a computer that was left to be thrown away in Choi’s office in southern Seoul. Among the speeches was Park’s so-called Dresden address on reunification delivered in Germany in March 2014.
The president acknowledged that Choi had helped her prepare for public speeches during her presidential election campaign and the early part of her presidency.
“During the last presidential election campaign, she (Choi) has offered me personal comments about my campaign activities, mostly speeches and publicity efforts,” Park said.
“For some period of time after my inauguration, I had asked for her opinion over some materials, but after the secretarial staff at Cheong Wa Dae was fully established, I stopped (asking for her help).”
Except for the annual New Year’s speech, it marks the first time since August last year that the president has addressed the nation on a particular issue.
Choi — the daughter of Park’s late mentor Choi Tae-min and ex-wife of Park’s former secretary Chung Yun-hoi — is also suspected of inappropriately exerting her influence in the creation and operation of two nonprofit foundations.
After the latest media report on Choi’s scandal emerged, opposition lawmakers stepped up their political offensive against the president, calling on all Cabinet ministers and top presidential secretaries to resign.
Some have demanded an independent counsel look into the scandal, questioning the credibility of an ongoing prosecutorial probe.
Meanwhile, legal experts here said it may be difficult to press criminal charges against the presidential staff members for leaking materials to Choi, given that she received only drafts of speeches and not finalized documents.
Past court rulings said that only original or finalized materials can be regarded as official presidential records that are subject to legal protection.
“There may be political repercussions of getting feedback from someone other than her staff and advisor, but it may be hard to make a criminal case out of this,” a local judge said.