* Raids widen to Lotte Group and SK Group
* Prosecutors are investigating influence-peddling
* Probe centred around confidante of President Park
* Opposition parties seeking to launch impeachment
* Investigators looking into $8 bln merger of two Samsung
(Recasts with confirmation of raids, adds opposition party on
possible impeachment, background, paragraphs 1, 7-15; adds
By Hyunjoo Jin and Joyce Lee
SEOUL, Nov 24 South Korean investigators raided
the offices of Lotte Group, SK Group and government agencies on
Thursday, officials said, as part of a widening probe into
alleged influence-peddling that has engulfed President Park
The businesses are suspected of providing money to two
foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of Park
who is at the centre of a growing scandal, to win government
favours in relation to duty free licenses, Yonhap News Agency
Prosecutors indicted Choi and a former presidential aide on
Sunday on charges of colluding with Park to pressure companies
to contribute funds to the foundations at the centre of the
scandal, which has rocked Park's presidency.
Spokesmen at Lotte Group and SK Group confirmed the raid
without elaboration. A prosecution spokesman was not available
The finance ministry and customs service, which oversee duty
free licenses, were also raided, Yonhap reported. A finance
ministry official and a customs official confirmed the raid but
did not provide further information.
On Wednesday, investigators carried out related searches at
offices of Samsung Group, South Korea's largest family-run
conglomerate and the parent of global smartphone leader Samsung
Electronics Co Ltd.
Samsung is alleged to have provided 2.8 million euros ($3.1
million) to a company co-owned by Choi and her daughter to use
her influence to gain backing from a state pension fund for the
$8 billion merger of two Samsung Group affiliates, Samsung C&T
Corp and Cheil Industries, last year.
South Korea's National Pension Service (NPS), the world's
third-largest pension fund, voted in favour of the merger
despite criticism that the deal helped the Samsung Group family
to cement control at the expense of other shareholders.
Its backing was seen as crucial to the success of the merger
and some South Korean media reports said its approval came under
Prosecutors also raided NPS offices yesterday in a clear
signal they were expanding their investigation into the
corruption scandal, which has left a worrying power vacuum in
The Democratic Party, the main opposition party with 121
seats in the 300-member parliament, said on Thursday it was
working towards impeachment proceedings against Park, aiming to
put a motion to a vote early next month.
An impeachment motion requires at least half of the
parliament to start and needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
Opposition parties, however, must get some votes from Park's
ruling party if the motion is to succeed. Most of the members of
Park's party have yet to indicate their positions.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Seoul
on Saturday in the fourth straight weekend of protests against
Park, the biggest public demonstrations in South Korea since the
Park, who's five-year term ends in February 2018, has
resisted calls to resign but has apologized twice.
(Additiona reporting by Ju-min Park, Cynthia Kim and Jane
Chung; Editing by Richard Pullin and Paul Tait)