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Why South Korean president bought 360 Viagra pills in Kenya

By AP and Standard Reporter | Published Thu, November 24th 2016 at 00:00, Updated November 24th 2016 at 08:27 GMT +3
President Uhuru Kenyatt, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea share a light moment at State House, Nairobi. President Park Geun-hye was on a 3 days State Visit to Kenya

South Korean President left behind a political storm following her visit to Kenya in May but she, too, is battling a bizarre political scandal traced to her Kenyan tour.

The scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye has now left her office defending the purchase of hundreds of erectile dysfunction pills.

Ms 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 2km (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 confidant to 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 complicit in the criminal activities of her long-time 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.

Ironically, the visit by Geun-hye to Nairobi had set up a meeting that would kick up a political storm locally.

Her visit saw Raila Odinga and Moses Wetang'ula hosted at State House by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who invited the Opposition leaders for a luncheon in honour of the South Korean leader.

But the significance of the meeting between the President and the Opposition leaders ignited a furious row because Raila later insisted there was a deal on reforming the electoral commission.

Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto maintained no such agreement was reached, arguing the parties only shared a meal with Geun-hye.

Ruto then said there was little time to conclusively discuss substantive issues on the electoral commission. "When the CORD principals came to State House, they made a proposal and in the interest of time we said, let us finish with our visiting guest (South Korean President Park Geun-hye) and then later set a date to meet and discuss," Ruto said then.

Around that time CORD had begun public protests to press for the removal of IEBC commissioners. The State House luncheon also came on the eve of Madaraka Day and CORD had declined invitation to attend the national celebrations in Nakuru.

The Opposition went on to hold a controversial parallel meeting at Uhuru Park. Subsequent protests by the Opposition turned bloody and eventually the warring parties negotiated, culminating in a deal to kick out electoral commissioners.

But while the storm in Kenya has since calmed, Geun-hye is fighting a tsunami that threatens her presidency. Yet, the Kenyan visit was somewhat nostalgic for her. Uhuru and Geun-hye's parents, Kenya's founding president Jomo Kenyatta and the founder of South Korea's third republic, Park Chun hee, were friends and were elected in 1963.

And close to four decades later, the offspring of the two presidents rose to become Heads of State in their respective countries, with Park Geun-hye taking the reins of power in Seoul on February 26, 2013 while Kenyatta assumed office as Kenya's fourth president on April 9, 2013.


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