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South Korea president’s office explains Viagra purchase

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By Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — An increasingly strange political scandal surrounding South Korean President Park Geun-hye has now left her office defending the purchase of hundreds of erectile dysfunction pills.

In this Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, file photo, South Korean protesters wearing masks of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, and her confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a political scandal, attend a rally calling for Park to step down in downtown Seoul.  (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File) / MANILA BULLETIN

In this Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, file photo, South Korean protesters wearing masks of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, and her confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a political scandal, attend a rally calling for Park to step down in downtown Seoul.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File) / MANILA BULLETIN

Park’s office on Wednesday confirmed revelations by an opposition lawmaker that it purchased about 360 Viagra pills and the generic version of the drug in December.

While the report has created a frenzy on the internet, Park’s office said the pills were bought to potentially treat altitude sickness for presidential aides and employees on Park’s May trips to Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, whose capitals are 1 to 2 kilometers (0.6 to 1.2 miles) above sea level.

None of the pills were used, said Jung Youn-kuk, spokesman of the presidential Blue House. South Korean doctors sometimes prescribe Viagra-style drugs to climbers because they are believed to be effective in preventing altitude sickness.

Park is now bracing for an impeachment push by opposition parties and some members of her own Saenuri Party amid allegations that she let a secretive confidante manipulate government affairs and amass an illicit fortune, a scandal critics say undermines the country’s democracy.

On Sunday, prosecutors said they believe Park was collusively involved in the criminal activities of her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, and two presidential aides who allegedly bullied companies into giving tens of millions of dollars to foundations and businesses Choi controlled, and also enabled Choi to interfere with state affairs.

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