SEOUL: The woman at the centre of a corruption scandal that triggered the biggest political crisis for a generation in South Korea appeared in court on Monday for a preliminary hearing in her trial on fraud charges. It was the first public appearance since October for Choi Soon-Sil, who has been dubbed Korea’s “female Rasputin” for the influence she wielded over the now-impeached president, Park Geun-Hye. Sporting black-rimmed glasses and a surgical mask that obscured her face, Choi, who has been in custody for the past seven weeks, was brought to the Seoul Central District Court in a special prison bus. Television footage showed her handcuffed and wearing a blue-grey prison outfit with a serial number on the chest as she was taken off the bus and led into the court building by a female guard. The 60-year-old faces trial on charges of embezzlement and abuse of power—largely related to huge “donations” made by conglomerates to two dubious foundations she controlled and allegedly plundered.