South Korea’s President Accepts Resignation of Top Aides

South Korea’s president who is in the middle of an influence-peddling scandal accepted the resignation of several of her top aides Sunday.

A presidential spokesman said Park Geun-hye accepted the resignations of her chief of staff and the senior secretaries for policy coordination, political affairs, civil affairs and public relations.

Also Sunday, the woman who is at the center of the president’s political scandal returned to Seoul from Germany.

Choi Soon-sil’s lawyer said Choi “will actively respond to prosecutors’ investigation and will testify according to the facts.”

Park has been embroiled in a scandal over allegations she allowed Choi to have access and input into important state affairs.

Park’s approval ratings have plummeted amid calls for her resignation since revealing she gave drafts of her speeches for editing to Choi, who holds no government security clearance or post. Records indicate Choi also received confidential documents, including files on Japan and North Korea.

Park, who has a little more than a year left in office, has apologized and has vowed to stay in office.

Media reports have speculated Choi used her influence with the president to persuade companies to donate money to her own two charities, and used those charities for her own benefit.

Also of concern, Choi’s father presided over a religious cult. Lawmakers say they are concerned Choi has draped herself in her father’s religious mantle. The head of the main opposition party said Choi’s influence with the president is like discovering you are being ruled by a “terrifying theocracy.”

President Park was befriended by Choi’s late father in the 1970s when Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, was South Korea’s military leader.

Choi Tae-min was a shadowy religious figure. The young Park and the older Choi grew even closer after the death of Park’s mother in 1974, accidentally killed by the country’s intelligence chief who was actually aiming at the military leader. The current president became the acting first lady after her mother’s death.

Would-be assassin Kim Jae-gyu, who was eventually executed, said in court proceedings one of his motives for the shooting was to keep the elder Choi away from Park’s daughter, Geun-hye.

Park Chung-hee himself was assassinated by his own spy chief in 1979, 18 years after coming to power in a coup.