2016 South Korean political scandal

The 2016 South Korean political scandal (최순실 게이트) is a South Korean political scandal involving the influence of Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a shaman-esque cult leader, over president Park Geun-hye.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Widespread coverage of this began in late October 2016.

On November 29 Park offered to begin the process of removing herself from power.[16]


Choi Soon-sil

Main article: Choi Soon-sil

Choi Soon-sil has known President Park since the 1970s when Choi's father, Choi Tae-min, was then-president Park Chung-hee's mentor as the family was still grieving from the assassination of then first-lady Yuk Young-soo.[17] Choi at that time claimed that the shamanic leader can channel communication to her dead mother.[18]

Ewha Womans University night college controversy

In July 2016, Ewha Womans University was selected as a support program for Lifelong Education College. Choi Kyung-Hee succeeded in financing the Ministry of Education. In September 2016, Ewha Womans University students requested 1,939 complaints to the National Assembly and the government. In the end of September 2016, there was a connection between financial support and admission by the Park Geun-hye administration as a result students have called the school to scrap a plan to launch a night college which they claim would damage the university's reputation as the nation's top women's university.[19]


Several news media including JTBC and the Hankyoreh reported that Choi, who has no official government position, had access to confidential documents and information for the president, and acted as a close confidant for the president. Choi and President Park's senior staffs including both Ahn Jong-bum and Jeong Ho-sung have used their influence to extort W77.4 billion (~ $75M) from Korean chaebols – family-owned large business conglomerates – and set up two culture and sports-related foundations, Mir and K-sports foundations.[20][21][22] Choi is also accused of having influenced Ewha Womans University to change their admission criteria in order for her daughter Chung Yoo-ra to be given a place there.[23]

Ahn Jong-bum and Jeong Ho-sung, top presidential aides, were arrested for abusing power and helping Choi; they denied wrongdoing and claims that they simply followed President Park's orders.[24]

The Supreme Prosecutors' Office of Korea (SPO), in laying charges against Choi and two former presidential aides, have alleged that President Park colluded with the three in certain criminal activities. The president will be questioned by prosecutors, the first time this has occurred with a serving South Korean president.[25][26][27]

Public apology

On October 25, 2016, Park publicly acknowledged her close ties with Choi. On October 28, Park dismissed key members of her top office staff while her approval ratings fell to 5%. Her approval rating ranged from 1 to 3% for Korean citizens under 60 years of age, while it remained higher at 13% for over 60 years age group.[28] It is the worst ever approval rate in Korean history and worse than the 6% approval rating of former President Kim Young-sam, who was widely blamed for forcing the Korean economy into the Asian Financial Crisis.[29][30][31]

On 29 November 2016, Park offered to resign as President, and invited the National Assembly to arrange a transfer of power. The opposition parties rejected the offer, accusing Park of attempting to avoid the process of impeachment.[32]


The revelations about the relationship of Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil caused mass demonstrations in Seoul.[33][34] Protesters called for the resignation of Park Geun-hye.[35] On Nov. 12th, more than 1 million citizens participated in the protests at Gwanghwamun Square close to presidential residence demanding President Park's resignation or impeachment.[36] On Nov. 19th, another 1 million citizens participated in the national protest after President Park refused to help the investigation of her abuse of power.[37][38]

Impeachment process

On 3rd December 2016, three opposition parties agreed to introduce a joint impeachment motion against President Park Geun-hye. The motion, which will be signed by 171 of 300 lawmakers, will be put to a vote on Friday, 9th December 2016.[39]


  1. "Investigations into 'Choi Soon-sil gate' widening". The Korea Times. October 23, 2016.
  2. "South Korea's leader proposes revising presidential system". Associated Press. October 24, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  3. "Key suspects still at large in Choi Sun-sil probe". JoongAng Ilbo. October 25, 2016.
  4. "'It's actually a system where Choi Sun-sil tells the President what to do'". The Hankyoreh. October 26, 2016.
  5. "A Rasputinesque mystery woman and a cultish religion could take down South Korea's president". Quartz. October 28, 2016.
  6. "South Korea Prosecutors Raid President's Office Over Scandal". Bloomberg. October 29, 2016.
  7. "Swirling Scandal Involving Shamanistic Cult Threatens S. Korean President". NPR. October 29, 2016.
  8. "'Female Rasputin' at eye of S Korean political scandal: 5 things to know". Channel Newsasia. October 29, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  9. "South Korea's presidency 'on the brink of collapse' as scandal grows". Washington Post. October 29, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  10. "'Rasputin-like' friend of South Korean president returns amid protests". The Guardian. October 30, 2016.
  11. "Cult leader's daughter may upend South Korea presidency". CBS NEWS. October 30, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  12. "South Korean scandal: President Park's friend Choi returns to Seoul". Channel NewsAsia. 30 Oct 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  13. "S Korean scandal: President Park's friend Choi returns to Seoul". BBC News. October 30, 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  14. "Park Geun-hye and the friendship behind S Korea's presidential crisis". BBC News. October 31, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  15. "Woman at center of South Korea political crisis begs forgiveness". Reuters. October 31, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  16. "South Korea's embattled president offers to relinquish power". Reuters. November 29, 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  17. "AP EXPLAINS: What we know about S. Korean political scandal". Associated Press. October 26, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  18. "A Presidential Friendship Has Many South Koreans Crying Foul". New York Times. October 27, 2016.
  19. "Ewha students protest opening of night college for workers". Korea Times. July 28, 2016.
  20. "박 대통령 독대한 대기업들 미르·K 출연금 유독 많았다". hani.co.kr. 3 November 2016.
  21. "[안선희의 밑줄 긋기] 재벌들이 피해자라고?". hani.co.kr. 3 November 2016.
  22. "[단독]"미르-K스포츠재단 모금, 안종범 수석이 지시했다"". news.donga.com.
  23. McCurry, Justin (30 October 2016). "'Rasputin-like' friend of South Korean president returns amid protests". The Guardian.
  24. "검찰, 안종범 전 정책조정수석 긴급체포…서울남부구치소로 이송". news.donga.com.
  25. Agence France-Presse (20 November 2016). "Choi-gate prosecutors accuse South Korean president of collusion". The Guardian.
  26. "최순실, 딸 친구 부모 민원 들어주고 1000만원 샤넬백 등 5000만원 챙겨". news.chosun.com.
  27. "檢, 헌정사상 첫 현직 대통령 피의자 입건…"3명과 공모범행"(종합)". news.nate.com.
  28. "President Park breaks YS's record, approval rating at 5 percent". Oh My News. November 6, 2016.
  29. "데일리 오피니언 제234호(2016년 11월 1주)" [Daily Opinion No. 234 (November 1, 2016)]. Gallup Korea.
  30. "Park orders secretaries to resign over 'Choi Soon-sil scandal'". The Korea Times. October 28, 2016.
  31. McCurry, Justin (29 November 2016). "South Korea's president calls on parliament to arrange her exit". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  32. "전국에서 '최순실 의혹' 진상규명·대통령 퇴진 요구 집회".
  33. "'분노한 민심'…서울 도심 '박근혜 하야' 촉구 대규모 집회".
  34. "Thousands protest in South Korea, demand president quit over scandal". Reuters.
  35. "'100만명'이 지하철 통계로 증명됐다". huffingtonpost.kr.
  36. "들불로 번진 2주연속 '100만 촛불혁명'…26일 300만 예고". news.nate.com.
  37. "Dreaming of a new world, one million candles again burn nationwide". english.hani.co.kr.
  38. "South Korea's Opposition Parties Move to Impeach President Park Geun-hye". Wall Street Journal. December 3, 2016.
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