Off the wire
China mulls revising law on small, medium-sized enterprises  • China, Myanmar launch friendship forest ecological project  • Interview: Kyrgyz parliament speaker says Chinese premier's visit to further promote bilateral cooperation  • Roundup: Mexican experts say CPC leadership pillar of China's social, economic progress  • China's Alipay and Commonwealth Bank of Australia collaborate to provide innovative payment solutions  • Profile: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak  • China Hushen 300 index futures open lower Monday  • Egyptian university launches Chinese movies week  • China treasury bond futures open slightly lower Monday  • Chinese yuan strengthens against USD Monday  
You are here:   Home

Spotlight: Confidante's intervention in state affairs puts S. Korean president in crisis

Xinhua, October 31, 2016 Adjust font size:

It is not rare in South Korea to see family members or close aides to presidents involved in corruption scandals as a legacy from rules by military dictators, which lasted for almost three decades to the late 1980s.

But this time it seems a completely strange story even to South Koreans. Choi Soon-sil, a longtime confidante of President Park Geun-hye who allegedly calls Park "sister," is suspected of having pulled strings behind the scenes and intervened in state affairs.

Outraged protesters took to the streets in central Seoul on Saturday night, raising high placards that demand President Park step down or be impeached. Rallies and gatherings are forecast to continue.

Choi unexpectedly returned to Seoul on Sunday after staying abroad for two months and said through her attorney that she will actively comply with prosecutors' investigation and state honestly. Prosecutors summoned her for questioning on Monday.

Her comeback, however, failed to soothe condemnations. Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the main opposition Minjoo Party, said on her Facebook page that Choi must be arrested immediately for possible concealment efforts.

Minor Justice Party members visited the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in charge of investigating into the case, calling for an immediate detention of Choi who demanded a day to rest as she is not in a good health condition and feels tired after a long flight.


Worries linger among politicians and many South Koreans about a loose investigation into Choi, whose seemingly indestructible relationship with President Park dates back to the mid-1970s.

Choi is the fifth daughter of Choi Tae-min, who reportedly approached Park serving as acting first lady following her mother's assassination in 1974.

The elder Choi, who died in 1994, is known to have been a shamanistic religious figure creating a cult called Eternal Life that combined Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Buddhism.

Rumors swirled at that time about Choi suspected of using his connections to Park to commit wrongdoings in the joint management of pro-government volunteer groups.

Choi Soon-sil said she met Park, four years older than her, for the first time at an event in 1976 when she was a college freshman, according to an interview with a local magazine in 1994. Choi has presumably cemented a close friendship with Park.

The friendship seemed to get stronger after Park's father was assassinated by the former intelligence agency chief who was one of his closest aides. Park said in her 1994 interview with the same magazine that she was grateful for Choi's father for his comfort during "the toughest times."

Choi and her father reportedly interfered with the management of the YukYoung Foundation, a non-profit fund named after Park's late mother Yuk Young-soo, since Park took office as its president in 1983.

Choi's husband Chung Yoon-hoe also served as Park's chief of staff till 2004 after Park was elected lawmaker of the Grand National Party, predecessor of the ruling Saenuri Party, in 1998.

Suspicions were raised over Chung's intervention in state affairs behind the scenes after his marriage with Choi was broken in July 2014.


Unlike Chung's case, public uproar is nonstop as local media reports speculating that Choi Soon-sil intervened in government affairs were acknowledged by President Park, who said in her public apology on Tuesday that Choi edited some of presidential speeches in her early presidency.

The president said Choi gave personal advice on speeches and public relations issues during the presidential election campaign in 2012 and during the initial presidency since February 2013. Park didn't elaborate on when Choi stopped helping her.

Park's acknowledgement reversed denials by her senior aides of media speculations. Lee Won-jong, presidential chief of staff who resigned on Sunday, told a parliamentary hearing that he had no idea how such a story that could not exist "even in feudal days" was being printed in local press.

Local cable channel JTBC reported on Monday that it obtained a tablet computer, once owned by Choi. It contained Park's speeches and statements from 2012 to early 2014. Based on the computer's record, Choi is estimated to have received files before Park's actual delivery.

The files included Park's landmark Dresden speech made in Germany in 2014 that laid out her vision over reunification with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). According to TV footage, many words were marked in red, indicating an editing after Choi's review.

Hankyoreh newspaper reported Wednesday that copies of presidential reports were brought to Choi every day by early 2016, citing a former employee of one of the two foundations controlled by Choi.

The former secretary-general of the Mir foundation was quoted as saying Choi meddled in major national decisions, including the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the appointment of ministers. The decisions were made after consulting with Choi's own advisers, including a commercial film director and a former fencer of the national team.

The symbol of the last remaining inter-Korean economic cooperation in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong has been closed down by South Korea following Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January and the launch in February of a long-range rocket.

President Park reshuffled her secretariat on Sunday to try to soothe the public fury that placed the president into a crisis before next year's presidential election in December.

Both ruling and opposition parties called on the embattled president to dissolve the current cabinet and form a grand-coalition government by appointing a politically-neutral prime minister and letting him choose cabinet members. Endit