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Friday, December 5, 2014

Bipartisan row escalates over scandal surrounding Park aides

The nation's ruling and opposition parties clashed Friday as prosecutors widened their probe into allegations that a group of core aides to President Park Geun-hye handled state affairs behind the scenes.

The scandal centers on allegations that Jeong Yun-hoe, Park's chief of staff during her term in parliament, tried to oust the president's current chief secretary Kim Ki-choon and received briefings on state affairs through regular meetings with a group of 10 key presidential officials.

Jeong holds no official title in the current administration, but he is widely reported to still wield enormous influence in the running of state affairs.

Lawmakers of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) mounted their attack on the Park administration.

"The people no longer wish to see the kind of incompetence that neglected (the group of 10)," Rep. Park Jie-won, a senior NPAD lawmaker, said during a party meeting, demanding the president apologize to the public.

The lawmaker also accused chief secretary Kim of incompetence and dereliction of duty, alleging he took no action despite knowledge of the behind-the-scene maneuvers.

Rep. Moon Jae-in of NPAD urged President Park to withdraw all "guidelines" for the prosecution's investigation and remove her chief secretary and confidants from their posts in order to ensure a fair probe.

"A quick and resolute decision is the only thing that will save the president from this crisis," he said.

NPAD has called for separate investigations by an independent counsel and the parliament, but the ruling Saenuri Party dismissed the calls as an attempt to drag down the National Assembly. 

"The essence of this case is a document leak and a public official's divulgence of classified information," Rep. Lee One-koo, the ruling party's floor leader, said during a party meeting. "The opposition party's excessive attacks are a typical political offensive."

The scandal broke last week after the vernacular daily Segye Times reported on the allegations, citing an internal document of the presidential office dated Jan. 6.

On Thursday, prosecutors questioned the senior police officer accused of writing up the document. (Yonhap)

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