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Voice shaking, S. Korean leader says scandal ‘all my fault’

Park also vowed to accept a direct investigation into her actions, but the opposition, sensing weakness, immediately threatened to push for her ouster if she doesn’t distance herself from domestic affairs and accept a prime minster chosen by the Parliament.

“I feel a huge responsibility (for the scandal) deep in my heart,” Park said, her voice shaking during the high-stakes televised address to the nation. “It is all my fault and mistake.”

Park’s comments were rife with astonishing moments, and included a frank assessment of her relationship with the woman at the heart of the scandal, Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a cult leader and a longtime friend of Park’s.

“I put too much faith in a personal relationship and didn’t look carefully at what was happening,” Park said. “Sad thoughts trouble my sleep at night. I realize that whatever I do, it will be difficult to mend the hearts of the people, and then I feel a sense of shame and ask myself, ‘Is this the reason I became president?'”

In another exceptional moment, Park denied media speculation that she had “fallen into worshipping cult religions or that shamanistic rituals were held at the presidential Blue House.”

Her comments come at what may well prove to be the crucial moment of her presidency.

Park is attempting to show the contrition and sense of responsibility that South Koreans demand while also trying to re-establish her tarnished credibility. She is in the fourth year of a single five-year term and faced criticism even before this scandal, particularly for the government’s response to a 2014 ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people.

One national poll released earlier Friday had her approval rating at 5 percent, the lowest for any president in South Korea since the country achieved a democracy in the late 1980s following decades-long dictatorships.