S Korean president not to attend APEC summit amid snowballing scandal

Updated: 2016-11-08 19:05


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SEOUL -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye will not attend the Asia-Pacific summit meeting slated for later this month amid a snowballing political scandal involving the president's longtime confidante and former aides, Seoul's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck told a routine press briefing that President Park decided not to participate in the summit meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in consideration of grave security situations on the Korean peninsula.

The decision was already made in September following the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s fifth nuclear device test in the month, the spokesman said.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is scheduled to be held in the Peruvian capital of Lima for two days from Nov. 19.

It would mark the first time since the Asia-Pacific leaders' meeting was launched in 1993 that a South Korean president is absent from the gathering.

Park's absence decision came amid a rising turmoil in the South Korean political sphere over the scandal involving Choi Soon-sil, the president's decades-long friend suspected of intervening in state affairs behind the scenes.

The first South Korean female leader fired eight presidential secretaries and named three cabinet members, including a new prime minister, but opposition parties had boycotted the "unilateral" nomination of the country's No.2 executive position.

President Park visited the parliamentary building, saying she will accept a new prime minister proposed by an agreement between ruling and opposition parties.

Non-President Park faction lawmakers within the governing party have demanded Park drop her party affiliation amid the falling approval rating of the president that hit the lowest for any South Korean president.

The foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that who will attend the APEC summit on behalf of the embattled president will be announced early next week, adding the ministry is bracing for all possibilities.