(Updates with rally, paragraph 13)
By Jack Kim
SEOUL Dec 31 A South Korean court issued an
arrest warrant on Saturday for the head of the national pension
fund, the world's third largest, in a corruption scandal that
has led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment, an official
A special prosecutor probing the wide-reaching scandal has
sought the arrest of the National Pension Service (NPS) Chairman
Moon Hyung-pyo on charges of abuse of power and perjury.
The Seoul Central District Court issued the warrant saying
evidence supported the charges against Moon, an official at the
court said, but did not provide further details.
The special prosecutor's office said on Thursday Moon had
acknowledged that he had pressured the fund to approve an $8
billion merger between two Samsung Group units last year while
he was Health and Welfare Minister.
He denied during a parliamentary hearing in November that he
had exerted pressure on the NPS, which is run by the ministry,
to back the merger. His lawyer in a court hearing on Friday
about the warrant again denied Moon had presured the NPS, local
The merger last year of Samsung Group affiliates
Cheil Industries Inc and Samsung C&T Corp has become
central to the investigation of the scandal that led parliament
to vote this month to impeach Park.
The merger has been criticised by some investors for
strengthening the founding family's control of Samsung Group,
South Korea's largest "chaebol", or conglomerate, at the expense
of other shareholders.
The NPS, which had 545 trillion won ($451.78 billion) under
management at the end of September and was a major shareholder
in the two Samsung affiliates, voted in favour of the merger
without calling in an external committee that sometimes advises
it on difficult votes.
The special prosecutor's office is probing whether Samsung's
support for a business and foundations backed by the president's
friend, Choi Soon-sil, at the centre of the corruption scandal,
may have been connected to the NPS support for the merger.
Park, 64, is accused of colluding with Choi to pressure big
businesses to make contributions to non-profit foundations
backing presidential initiatives.
She has denied wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in
her ties with Choi, a friend for four decades, who has also
denied wrongdoing. Choi is in detention while on trial.
Park's impeachment is being reviewed by the Constitutional
Court, which has 180 days from the Dec. 9 parliament impeachment
vote, to uphold or overturn it and reinstate the leader.
A large crowd gathered in central Seoul for a 10th
consecutive weekend rally to demand that Park step down
immediately. They listened to speeches and music ahead of a
march towards the presidential Blue House.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Gareth