The South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, has publicly denied falling victim to a religious cult as scandal threatens to engulf her leadership.
Appearing close to tears in a televised address, she apologised for allowing a long-standing friend inappropriate access to government policy-making.
She agreed to be questioned over the scandal but did not offer to resign.
Choi Soon-sil is suspected of using their friendship to solicit donations to a non-profit fund she controlled.
Ms Choi is in detention facing charges of fraud and abuse of power.
The main opposition party said the president’s apology lacked sincerity and it called on Ms Park to step back from state affairs.
Scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators demanding Ms Park’s resignation in central Seoul on Friday.
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