‘Rasputin’ at heart of South Korea presidential crisis to answer her critics

The woman at the heart of a lurid political scandal engulfing South Korean president Park Geun-Hye returned to the country on Sunday to face accusations of meddling in state affairs. Choi Soon-Sil, who has been holed up in Germany since early September, flew into Seoul on a flight from London. Ms Choi, a close personal friend of the leader with no official position and no security clearance, has promised to co-operate with investigators. Her lawyer, Lee Kyung-Jae, said: “I think the case must be thoroughly investigated and the truth be told to prevent any further eruption of speculation that goes beyond fantasy.”

Choi told me she will cooperate with the investigation and expressed her deep apology to the people for letting them down and causing them frustration

Ms Choi’s lawyer, Lee Kyung-Jae

The past week has a seen a daily diet of increasingly sensational media reports regarding Ms Choi, the 60-year-old daughter of a shadowy religious leader and one-time mentor of the president. Invoking a lurid back-story of religious cults, shamanist rituals and corruption, the reports have portrayed her as a Rasputin-like figure whose influence extended to vetting presidential speeches and advising on key appointments and policy issues. She also faces charges of using her links with the president to strong-arm major companies like Samsung into donating large sums to two non-profit foundations she set up.

Park Geun-hye’s leadership is on the brink of collapse. The president has lost her ability to function as leader

Yoo Chang-sun, political analyst