S.Korean president’s approval rating falls to 5%, lowest as incumbent leader

SEOUL — South Korean President Park Geun-hye saw her approval rating fall to 5 percent, lower than any other predecessors, amid rising public furor over a scandal involving her longtime confidante and senior secretaries, a local pollster survey showed on Friday.

Support for Park tumbled from 17 percent last week to 5 percent this week, falling below 6 percent recorded by former President Kim Young-sam in the last year in 1997 of his single, five-year-term presidency when the country’s financial crisis erupted.

It is based on a poll of 1,005 adults nationwide conducted by Gallup Korea from Tuesday to Thursday.

Park’s support base kept falling for seven weeks in a row since the second week of September when suspicions emerged over Choi Soon-sil suspected of pulling government strings behind the scenes by using her close friendship with the president for four decades.

Public anger was nonstop on spreading views that Choi’s interference with government affairs could not happen without the president’s protection and connivance.

Park said in her second national address over the scandal that she would accept criminal investigation, if necessary, by prosecutors, vowing to cooperate as much as possible for the ongoing investigation.

The first South Korean female leader apologized for the political scandal that sparked calls for her resignation, after making her first apology last week.

Tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets last Saturday night, shouting for the president’s resignation or impeachment.

The rally is forecast to be repeated this Saturday, with about 50,000 enraged people expected to gather in capital Seoul alone.

A Seoul court approved an arrest warrant for Choi last night on charges of fraud and abuse of power. Choi is charged with peddling undue influence to establish and raise funds for two nonprofit foundations that she actually controls.

The 60-year-old private citizen with no security clearance and government position is suspected of accessing secret presidential reports and meddling in state affairs, including the appointment of key officials as well as diplomatic and defense affairs.

Prosecutors is seeking an arrest warrant for Ahn Jong-beom, former senior presidential advisor on policy coordination who has been placed under emergency detention on Wednesday for a flight risk and a possible attempt to destroy evidence.

Ahn is seen as an accomplice to Choi accused of pressuring 53 conglomerates into donating 77.4 billion won (USD67.7 million) to create Mir and K-Sports foundations presumably controlled by Choi.

Chung Ho-seong, former presidential secretary, was urgently arrested by prosecutors on Thursday night as he is accused of having brought confidential documents for the president to Choi, including reports on defense, diplomatic and economic affairs. PNA/Xinhua-northboundasia.com