South Koreans are furious after reports that their president is controlled by a ‘shamanistic cult’

Protesters take part in a protest denouncing President Park Geun-hye over a recent influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul
Thomson Reuters

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has accepted the resignations of her top presidential aides, including the chief of staff, the presidential office said on Sunday, amid a deepening political crisis.

The departure of the top presidential officials comes as Park is grappling with a recent influence-peddling scandal involving an old friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Choi returned to South Korea from Germany on Sunday as the political crisis engulfed Park over allegations that she allowed Choi to use her friendship to exert improper influence and benefit personally.

Choi’s father, the founder of what has been described as a “shamanistic cult” called the Church of Eternal Life, allegedly raked in $70 million from the country’s biggest companies during Park’s presidency.

“This isn’t even a dictatorship,” Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the main opposition Party to Park told Korea JoongAng Daily about the Choi’s ties to the countries highest leadership. “It’s a terrifying theocracy.”

The story broke after the media began to investigate Choi, an equestrian who appeared to get extra credit in school for competing in dressage, NPR reports. The New York Times reports that Choi had broad access and incredible authority over Park, editing her speeches at times and even deciding on her wardrobe.

On Saturday at least 10,000 people took to the streets to call for Park’s resignation over the alleged ties to the Church of Eternal Life.

Jeong Yeon-guk, a spokesman for the presidential office, announced on Sunday that three long-time Park aides had also stepped down.