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Choi Soon-sil, a long-time friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye who is at the center of the South Korean political scandal involving Park, arrives for her first court hearing in Seoul, South Korea, December 19, 2016. Korea Pool/via REUTERS(reuters_tickers)
By Christine Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) - The daughter of one of the central figures in a South Korean influence-peddling scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment will face extradition proceedings in Denmark after Danish police arrested her on an Interpol request from Seoul.
Chung Yoo-ra, a 20-year-old equestrian competitor, is the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Park accused of colluding with the president to pressure businesses to contribute to non-profit foundations.
The scandal has drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets of Seoul for weekly demonstrations and could result in Park, 64, becoming the first democratically elected South Korean leader to leave office early.
Danish police said they had arrested Chung on Sunday evening in the northern city of Aalborg following a tipoff from a South Korean journalist.
"Charged with having committed extensive economic crime in South Korea," Chung will remain in custody for four weeks, Denmark's public prosecutor said after she appeared in court on Monday.
Denmark's Ritzau news agency said Chung had denied any wrongdoing during her court appearance. Chung also told the court she had signed some documents after being asked to do so by her mother, the agency reported, but gave no other details.
The Danish public prosecutions office said it had asked South Korea's justice ministry to submit a formal extradition request. Yonhap News Agency reported that South Korean police had already requested Chung's extradition. The two countries have an extradition treaty.
Chung trains for equestrian events in Germany. South Korea's foreign ministry had been working to invalidate Chung's passport and authorities had asked German prosecutors for information about her whereabouts and assets.
Park, whose father ruled South Korea for 18 years after seizing power in a 1961 coup, has denied any wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in her ties with Choi, who is facing her own trial. Choi also denies wrongdoing.
Park was impeached by parliament on Dec. 9. The Constitutional Court must confirm or overturn the impeachment and has months to decide.
As part of their investigation, South Korean prosecutors are trying to ascertain whether Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> sought favours from Choi and Park in return for funding some of their initiatives. An element of the investigation has been Samsung's sponsorship of Chung's riding career.
WILL "FULLY COOPERATE"
Chung told Danish police she was staying in Denmark for equestrian-related work. She said she was aware that Seoul wanted her for questioning and that her mother had been arrested in the same case, according to Danish police.
A Volkswagen vehicle and horse-riding equipment were found at the house where Chung and her party were arrested, according to South Korea's JTBC TV channel.
Lee Kyung-jae, a lawyer representing both Choi and Chung, said the daughter would cooperate.
"When Chung Yoo-ra returns I will ensure that she fully cooperates with the special prosecution's investigation," the lawyer told the Yonhap News Agency.
Danish police said three other adults and a child were with Chung at the time of the arrest but said none of them were wanted by the police. Chung is known to have a young son.
Chung became a figure of public ire in South Korea last year after it emerged that she had received special treatment from the prestigious Ewha Womans University, where her admission was subsequently cancelled.
News of Chung's arrest came a day after Park broke a month-long silence over her alleged role in the corruption scandal, publicly denying charges of wrongdoing and describing the accusations against her as fabricated and false.
(Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Ju-min Park, Se Young Lee and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Robert Birsel and Gareth Jones)