South Korean president denies following cult
South Korean President Park Geun Hye apologized Friday for her role in the scandal that has engulfed her nation in recent weeks, but denied that she is a follower of a Shamanistic cult, or had rituals performed in her official residence.
"There have been claims that I fell for a religious cult or had [shamanist rituals] performed in the Blue House, but I would like to clarify that those are absolutely not true," Park said. The Blue House is the South Korean presidential residence.
The statements come after Park replaced her prime minister and two other high-ranking government officials earlier this week, and polling firms find plunging approval ratings for the South Korean president -- five percent in one poll.
Park conceded she "put too much faith in a personal relationship and didn't look carefully at what was happening."
"If necessary, I'm determined to let prosecutors investigate me and accept an investigation by an independent counsel too," Park said, appearing close to tears. "All of this happening is my fault. It happened because of my neglect."
The scandal involving the alleged outsized influence Choi Soon Sil, who has heavy ties to cults, has embroiled South Korea. Choi was detained earlier this week, and prosecutors said Wednesday they will bring charges against her, for influence peddling, abuse of power and attempted fraud.
"Please, forgive me," Choi said, upon arrest. "I committed a sin that deserves death."
Observers have compared the situation to the famous Rasputin scandal, the mystical faith healer who gained influenced with Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
The Choi and Park families have a history.
Choi's father, Choi Tae Min, has also been called Rasputin, and President Park's father, Park Chung Hee, also served as president in the 1960s and 1970s, before being assassinated in 1979.
Park's mother, Yuk Young Soon, was assassinated years earlier, in 1974. Following that, Choi's father is said to have befriended the young Park in this period, after claiming to have seen the mother in a dream, asking him to help her daughter.