SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Choi Soon-sil, a longtime confidante of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, was summoned on Monday by prosecutors on various allegations, including her intervention in state affairs since Park took office in February 2013.
The 60-year-old woman appeared at 3:00 p.m. local time in the headquarters of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in which hundreds of journalists gathered.
It indicated a huge attention to Choi suspected of illicitly accessing presidential reports without any security clearance and official position.
Unable to utter a word, Choi was surrounded by journalists and protesters shouting that President Park should step down and Choi be arrested, according to TV footage.
Right before entering the prosecutors' building, Choi apologized to the public and begged for forgiveness, saying she committed wrongdoings that deserve death, according to local media reports.
Choi unexpectedly returned to Seoul on Sunday from London after staying in Europe for about two months. In a previous interview with a local newspaper, Choi had said she was unable to fly on airplanes for heart problems.
Choi, four years younger than Park, has been suspected of pulling strings behind the scenes and interfering with government affairs by using her connection to Park. Their friendship has lasted for about four decades.
In a televised address to the public last week, Park said she received personal advice from Choi on speeches and public relations issues during the presidential election campaign in 2012 and during the initial presidency beginning February 2013.
Park didn't elaborate on when Choi stopped helping her, but Park's acknowledgement itself triggered public uproar, leading tens of thousands of people to rally in central Seoul on Saturday night.
Local media reports speculated that Choi had accessed presidential speeches and statements hours or days before President Park actually deliver them, including a landmark Dresden speech made in Germany in 2014 that laid out a vision for reunification with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Copies of presidential reports had been reportedly brought to Choi every day, including documents on presidential schedule for overseas trips and secret contacts with the DPRK under the previous Lee Myung-bak administration.
Choi also allegedly meddled in major government decisions, including the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the appointment of ministers. The decisions were made after consulting with Choi's own advisers, including a commercial film director and a former fencer of the national team.
Corruption allegations included Choi's attempt to privatize non-profit Mir and K-Sports Foundations, which were recently established through an unprecedentedly rapid approval by pressuring conglomerates, including Samsung and Hyundai, into donating tens of millions of U.S. dollars.
Choi has also been accused of peddling influence to enable her daughter to illicitly enter a prestigious university. It encouraged even high school students in a society where college education determines the majority part of their lives to take to streets for rallies over the weekend.
President Park accepted the resignations of her eight secretaries, including presidential chief of staff and senior presidential secretary on policy coordination, on Sunday, but calls remain that it is not enough.
Among the dismissed secretaries were An Jong-beom, former presidential advisor on policy coordination suspected of being involved in the fundraising of the Choi-controlled foundations, and Chung Ho-seong who is suspected of bringing presidential reports daily to Choi.
An and Chung have been banned by prosecutors from leaving South Korea. Choi also faced a prohibition on leaving her country.