SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's president bowed as she arrived at the podium and shook as she spoke. For nine minutes, she apologized, she expressed remorse and she reached out for sympathy. In the face of nearly universal outrage among South Koreans, Park Geun-hye accepted full responsibility for an increasingly bizarre political scandal that threatens her presidency.
She avoided the more damning allegations that her longtime confidante had influence beyond speeches and personal favors and perhaps had interfered with important government decisions on policy and personnel. But Park's apology Friday had a number of astonishing moments:
— "I am sorry to have caused huge disappointment to the government officials and many people in the field who worked with me with devotion, and also the businesspeople who offered help based on good faith. The work was pushed to help the national economy and the lives of people, but (I feel) miserable and terrible that specific individuals used it for personal profit and committed unlawful acts during the process."
The arrest of her friend Choi Soon-sil and the detention of a former presidential senior secretary involve allegations they pressured South Korean companies into making large donations to two foundations and that Choi misused some of the funds.
— "Anyone found by the current investigation to have done something wrong must be held responsible for what they have done, and I am also ready to face any responsibility."
Park in this speech said for the first time she would accept a direct investigation into her actions. The president has immunity from prosecution except in cases of treason, under South Korean law, but she can be investigated. Prosecutors also have detained two former aides and have received files from the presidential Blue House in their widening investigation.
'I LOWERED MY GUARD'
— "She was a person who stood with me during the hardest moment in my life, so it's true that I lowered by guard and my sense of wariness. I put too much faith in a personal relationship and didn't look carefully at what was happening, and failed to be strict with the people around me."
Her friendship with Choi was born out of family tragedy. Park's mother was assassinated in 1974 by someone trying to kill her father, dictator Park Chung-hee. Choi's father, a shadowy religious figure named Choi Tae-min, emerged around the same time as Park's mentor. Her father was assassinated five years later.
'A SENSE OF SHAME'
— "Sad thoughts trouble my sleep at night. I realize that whatever I do, it will be difficult to mend the hearts of the people, and then I feel a sense of shame and ask myself, 'Is this the reason I became president?'"
The bluntly personal comment is a contrast to Park's perception as aloof or unemotional earlier in her presidency. Online commenters compared her remark to the lyrics of the Radiohead song "Creep."