Updated Nov. 24, 2016 12:40 a.m. ET
SEOUL—South Korean prosecutors raided the offices of two conglomerates on Thursday as part of their widening probe into an influence-peddling scandal involving the country’s leader and her confidante.
The searches at Lotte Group and SK Group came as opposition lawmakers said they would hold a vote in early December to impeach President Park Geun-hye. It was unclear whether enough ruling party lawmakers would join them to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for impeachment.
Lotte and SK acknowledged the raids but didn’t elaborate further. Prosecutors also declined to comment.
The raids are part of a weekslong probe into Choi Soon-sil, a longtime confidante of Ms. Park, whose public standing has been tarnished by the association. South Korean media has reported that Ms. Choi exerted influence over public affairs, despite having no official role in government, and that she used her political and business ties to benefit her daughter, an equestrian athlete. A lawyer for Ms. Choi couldn’t be reached for comment.
Prosecutors on Thursday also searched the Ministry of Strategy and Finance in Sejong and the Korea Customs Service in Daejeon. The two government agencies are involved in providing licenses for the country’s duty-free business.
It wasn’t evident if the raids are related to the licensing. Both SK and Lotte were denied approval to renew the licensing deals in November. “We had to halt our duty-free business since our license expired,” said an SK spokesman.
SK donated $9.5 million to two foundations that prosecutors allege were managed by Ms. Choi and Lotte provided $3.8 million, according to tax records reviewed by Chaebul.com, a corporate-research firm.
Prosecutors also questioned SK chairman Chey Tae-won and Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin this month alongside other corporate heads, including Samsung’s Lee Jae-yong The Hyundai Motor’s Jung Mong-koo details of the exchanges weren’t made public.
Write to Eun-Young Jeong at Eun-Young.Jeong@wsj.com
Tags: Chaebul.com, Choi Soon-sil, Choo Mi-ae, constitutional court, Democratic Party, duty-free business, Hyundai Motor’s, impeachment, influence peddling, Korea Customs Service in Daejeon, Lotte, Ministry of Strategy and Finance, n Chong-bum, Park, Park Geun-hye, People's Party, Samsung, scandal, SK Group, South Korea, South Korean prosecutors, South Kores