The Latest: SKorean prosecutors detain ex-presidential aide

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) " The Latest on South Korea's political scandal (all times local):

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10:20 a.m.

South Korean prosecutors have detained a former senior aide of President Park Geun-hye as they widen their investigations into a snowballing political scandal centering on whether the president's longtime friend was pulling government strings from the shadows.

Ahn Jong-beom is the second person detained over the scandal that has triggered mounting calls for Park's resignation. Earlier this week, prosecutors detained Park's friend, Choi Soon-sil, and requested an arrest warrant for her.

South Korean media speculate Choi, who has no government position, made policy recommendations for Park and pushed businesses to donate millions of dollars to two foundations she controlled.

A Seoul prosecution office said Thursday it has detained Ahn while questioning him over his alleged involvement in extracting $70 million of company donations.

Prosecutors have to determine whether to seek an arrest warrant for Ahn or release him by Friday.

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3:05 p.m.

A Seoul court says South Korean prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for a woman at the center of a political scandal that triggered mounting calls for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye.

The Seoul Central District Court says prosecutors on Wednesday requested the court to issue the warrant for Choi Soon-sil.

Choi, a longtime friend of Park, faced allegations that she used her close ties with the president to pull government strings from the shadows and pushed companies to donate millions of dollars to two foundations she controlled.

Earlier Wednesday, Park replaced her prime minister and two other top officials in a bid to restore public confidence amid the scandal that already forced her to fire eight presidential aides.

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10:20 a.m.

South Korea's embattled conservative president has replaced her prime minister and two other top officials in a bid to restore public confidence amid a political scandal involving her longtime friend.

President Park Geun-hye's office said Wednesday that Park nominated Kim Byong-joon, a former top policy adviser for late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, as her new prime minister. Kim's selection is subject to parliamentary approval.

The nomination is seen as an effort by the conservative Park to reach out to liberals for bipartisan support amid mounting public anger over the scandal that has already forced her to fire eight presidential aides.

The two other Cabinet jobs that Park reshuffled are the finance minister and safety minister.

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12:30 p.m.

North Korea is joyfully jumping into a bizarre political scandal rocking Seoul, calling it the inevitable result of a corrupt regime and saying the administration of South Korean President Park Geun-hye is "the most deformed, abnormal and stupid in contemporary society."

Pyongyang, while allowing none of its media the freedom to point criticism at its own leadership, has wasted no opportunity to lambaste Park in the harshest ways it can.

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency on Monday called the scandal a "hideous power-backed corruption case unprecedented in South Korean history."

Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling party, added the "deformed, abnormal and stupid" characterization and, just for good measure, called Park a "colonial stooge."

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10:30 a.m. Tuesday

Police say they've detained a man who tried to ram an excavator into a gate near a Seoul prosecutors' office where the woman at the center of a snowballing political scandal was questioned.

The ramming happened Tuesday morning after prosecutors detained Choi Soon-sil following hours of questioning.

Prosecution officials say the man tried to enter the gate of a prosecution office near another office where Choi was investigated.

Yonhap news agency says the man told investigators that he tried to meet Choi to help the woman with her death because she said she "committed a sin that deserves death."

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3:35 p.m. Monday

The woman at the center of a scandal roiling South Korea says she "committed a sin that deserves death."

Choi Soon-sil is meeting with prosecutors who are examining whether she used her close ties to President Park Geun-hye to pull government strings from the shadows while amassing a fortune.

According to Yonhap news agency, Choi told reporters Monday on her way to meet with the prosecutors, "Please, forgive me. I'm sorry. I committed a sin that deserves death."

The scandal exploded last week when, after weeks of speculation, Park acknowledged that Choi had edited some of her speeches and provided public relations help.

Widespread media reports have speculated that Choi, who has no official ties to the administration, had a major role in government affairs.

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3:20 p.m.

The woman at the center of a scandal roiling South Korea is meeting with prosecutors who are examining whether she used her close ties to President Park Geun-hye to pull government strings from the shadows while amassing a fortune.

Choi Soon-sil, a cult leader's daughter with a decades-long connection to Park, was nearly knocked off her feet several times Monday as she tried to walk through a massive crowd of media, protesters and security surrounding the entrance to the Seoul prosecutor's office.

Wearing a bucket hat and scarf, she held her hand to her mouth and appeared to be gasping as the crowd converged on her.

Protesters screamed: "Arrest Choi Soon-sil" and "Park Geun-hye should resign."

The scandal exploded last week when, after weeks of speculation, Park acknowledged that Choi had edited some of her speeches and provided public relations help.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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