South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye asked her nation’s forgiveness in a second apology address Friday over sharing classified information with a longtime friend with ties to a mysterious cult, and she denied accusations of allowing exorcisms to occur in the presidential palace.
“I feel a huge responsibility (for the scandal) deep in my heart. It is all my fault and mistake,” South Korea’s President said, vowing to “let prosecutors investigate me and accept an investigation by an independent counsel too.”
In an impassioned speech, Park also said she felt “like my heart is breaking” and that “sad thoughts trouble my sleep at night.”
“I put too much faith in a personal relationship and didn’t look carefully at what was happening… I realize that whatever I do, it will be difficult to mend the hearts of the people, and then I feel a sense of shame and ask myself, ‘Is this the reason I became president?'” she said.
Park also discussed her friend Choi Soon-sil. Reports revealed last week that Choi, a private citizen, had access to pivotal national security speeches and edited them for Park without security clearance. Choi and Park have been friends for decades, as Choi’s father, “Eternal Life Church” cult leader Choi Tae-min, became a mentor to Park following her mother’s assassination.
“Choi was the person who greatly helped me personally taking care of my personal affairs when I faced the hardest and loneliest moments in my life… so I had fully trusted her and over-relied on her, eventually causing me to overlook her shortcomings,” she admitted.
Park said she had mentally detached from Choi already but vowed to “totally cut off personal relations” from Friday on.
Park also denied accusations of allowing “shamanism” and exorcisms in the Cheong Wa Dae, Seoul’s presidential palace.
The scandal erupted last week, while Choi was still in Germany. Reports suggested that Park not only gave Choi access to classified information and helped shape speeches but used the “spirituality” of her father’s church to help her choose outfits and accessories like purses. Park apologized in a nationally-televised speech last week.
While Park identifies as Catholic, her ties to the Eternal Life Church go back decades, to her mother’s assassination in the 1970s. Choi Tae-min died in 1994, but Park kept close to the daughter of his sixth wife.
In addition to the Park scandal, the Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo notes that Choi stands accused of creating shell corporations to launder as much as 2.8 million euros.
The scandal has decimated Park’s public approval. A poll released Tuesday found that Park’s approval rating fell 25 points from 34 percent to little over 9 percent. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said Park should resign.
Park has otherwise presided over a popular presidency due to her economic policies and her work internationally to bring attention to North Korea’s growing aggression. Park organized the largest-ever war game with the United States earlier this year, a simulation of a takeover of Pyongyang.
For her work, the Kim Jong-un dictatorship has responded with unbridled vitriol, referring to Park repeatedly in state media as a “bitch,” “ugly old maid,” and “old cat groaning in her sickbed.”