South Korean president Park Geun-hye withdrew her nominee for prime minister on Tuesday and will instead allow the legislature to recommend a new candidate, Yonhap news agency reported.
The president’s statement indicates her weakened position caused by the recent scandal involving her close personal friend Choi Soon-Sil. Choi has been arrested on charges of fraud and abuse of power while there is a pending investigation against the president.
"If the National Assembly recommends a new premier, I will appoint him and let him control the Cabinet,” Park said, during a visit to the speaker of Parliament.
The prime minister is a symbolic post in South Korea and is assigned to assist the head of state with various duties. However, ultimate the executive power lays mostly with the president.
Tens of thousands of South Koreans protested in central Seoul on Saturday, in one of the biggest demonstrations in the country’s capital for years, calling on President Park to resign over a growing influence-peddling scandal.
In an attempt to regain public trust, Park reshuffled her advisers and senior cabinet members and nominated a liberal candidate for prime minister from outside her conservative Saenuri Party.
However, this move didn’t satisfy the opposition parties as they vowed to block her nominee because they were not properly consulted.
During their meeting, parliament speaker Chung Sye-Kyun told Park that her biggest priority should be to alleviate widespread public concern and anxiety.
Ongoing corruption investigation
Meanwhile, South Korean prosecutors raided Samsung Electronic’s offices on Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation into the scandal.
Media reports suggest that Samsung Electronics may have funnelled as much as $3.1 million to Choi, to pay for her daughter’s equestrian training in Germany.
“We’re searching Samsung Electronics offices," a spokesman for the prosecutors’ Office said. He declined to provide further details.