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(LEAD) S. Korea's vice trade minister questioned over influence-peddling scandal

All Headlines 17:06 February 02, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout)

SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- Special prosecutors looking into corruption cases involving President Park Geun-hye on Thursday questioned Vice Trade Minister Jeong Marn-ki over his alleged involvement in government subsidies given to the wife of a medical doctor close to her confidante at the center of the scandal.

The independent counsel team is investigating whether the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae was behind the government's provision in 2015 of research and development funds to a company run by the wife of Dr. Kim Young-jae.

Jeong served as a presidential secretary from 2014 to 2016.

Kim is called the president's "shadowy doctor" and has maintained a close relationship with Park's confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is currently standing trial over a string of corruption charges.

The doctor himself was questioned last month for treating the president with injections without going through due security procedures and safety checks.

Vice Minister Jeong was quizzed one day after the investigators sought a warrant to formally arrest Kim's wife Park Chae-yoon on charges of bribing former senior presidential secretary An Chong-bum.

An, who is standing trial in connection with the presidential scandal. allegedly received tens of millions of won worth of kickbacks from the Kim family, said Lee Kyu-chul, the probe team's spokesman.

President Park Geun-hye's jailed friend Choi Soon-sil arrives at the investigation team's office in Seoul on Feb. 2, 2017, to undergo questioning. Choi is at the center of an influence-peddling scandal that has led to the president's impeachment. (Yonhap)

The probe team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, has been accelerating its investigation into the scandal that led to President Park's impeachment last year.

Earlier in the day, the prosecutors enforced a second arrest warrant to interrogate Choi after she repeatedly declined to answer their summons. The writ is valid for 48 hours after execution.

A police officer was also questioned over allegations former senior presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo exerted influence so that his son, who was conscripted to serve with the police, could get an easy assignment.

South Korea's Vice Trade Minister Jeong Marn-ki arrives at the special investigation team's office in southern Seoul to undergo questioning on Feb. 2, 2017. Jeong was called in over allegations a local doctor close to President Park Geun-hye's friend received undue business favors based on the confidante's ties to the president. (Yonhap)

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