|Security officers take Choi Soon-sil, center, to the Seoul Central District Court from the Seoul Detention Center on Nov. 1. / Yonhap|
As the nation's unprecedented influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her longtime confidant Choi Soon-sil deepens, new allegations involving lawmakers, business entities and others from high-powered circles continue to emerge. To keep you up with the latest, the Digital News team will provide a daily round-up of events. ― ED.
By Ko Dong-hwan
1. Former presidential aide confesses ‘President ordered all'
|An Chong-bum, former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination|
With An Chong-bum's revelation at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, the investigation will focus on how deeply President Park was involved in establishing the Mir and K-Sports foundations, which Choi Soon-sil, the central figure in the snowballing influence-peddling scandal, allegedly used as personal banks.
Prosecutors pointed to what President Park said at a Cheong Wa Dae luncheon in February 2015, to which conglomerates' CEOs were invited. She had advised the CEOs to "expand their investment and support for Korea's cultural, arts fields." Prosecutors suspect that her comment is linked to the establishment of the Mir and K-Sports foundations.
Prosecutors will investigate whether the President pushed An to establish the foundations or he voluntarily noted her comment from the luncheon and acted on his own to establish the foundations.
2. Ruling party advises Park to face justice
Ruling party lawmakers have joined opposition lawmakers in demanding that President Park face justice amid the scandal.
Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Jae-kyung said at the party's meeting on Wednesday what former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination An Chong-bum said during a prosecutors' questioning ― that the President ordered An to push forward with establishing the controversial Mir and K-Sports foundations.
"The first thing needed right now to quench the public rage and disappointment is for the President to come out and say ‘investigate me,'" Rep. Kim said.
Other Saenuri Party lawmakers known as "non-Park-friendly" joined Rep. Kim's call.
The Constitution states that Korean presidents have veto rights over prosecutors' investigations of them.
Despite the statute, opposition parties have demanded that the President must allow herself to be investigated, saying: "There is no sanctuary before investigation."
3. K-Sports demanded W8 bil. from Booyoung
The K-Sports Foundation, allegedly set up by Choi Soon-sil to use as her personal bank with funds squeezed from conglomerates, approached Booyoung Group and demanded 8 billion won ($7 million).
In a meeting at Lotte Hotel Seoul in February, K-Sports' former secretary general, Jung Hyun-sik, asked Booyoung President Lee Joong-keun for financial support for one of the foundation's five future strategic strongholds, according to a memorandum of the meeting obtained by online news outlet NoCut News.
Lee, agreeing to Jung's request, asked if his conglomerate could be "well covered" in a coming tax audit.
Choi Soon-sil, according to the memorandum, later heard the meeting's result from Jung but ordered him not to accept Booyoung's money.
The memorandum also said that former senior residential secretary for policy coordination An Chong-bum and two officials each from K-Sports and Booyoung were at the meeting.
Booyoung has denied that it solicited a tax audit favor and said it rejected K-Sports' request for money.
4. Mir, K-Sports fund-givers to be questioned
Fifty-three companies that allegedly funded the controversial Mir and K-Sports foundations, which Choi Soon-sil set up and allegedly used as personal banks, are in line for investigation by prosecutors.
A special prosecutors' team has been established and it started questioning company officials Thursday. The team is focusing on how deeply Cheong Wa Dae is involved in making the companies give money to the two non-profit foundations.
Prosecutors confirmed that Samsung Electronics funneled about 2.8 million euros ($3.1 million) to Widec Sports, which Choi set up in Korea and Germany allegedly to divert money from the foundations.
Other conglomerates that prosecutors say funded the foundations include Hyundai Motor Group with 12.8 billion won ($11.2 million), SK 11.1 billion won, LG 7.8 billion won, POSCO 4.9 billion won, Lotte 4.5 billion won, GS 4.2 billion won and Hanwha 2.5 billion won. The funds total 48.6 billion won for Mir and 28.8 billion won for K-Sports.
5. ‘Shadow president's' lawyer resigns
Law Firm Somang's Lee Jin-woong, one of two lawyers for Choi Soon-sil amid her influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye, has resigned.
Lee, 47, filed a letter of resignation to the Seoul Central Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday.
Lee Kyung-jae, Choi's other lawyer, had persuaded Lee Jin-woong to work with him.
"I will now act as a lone general on a horse fighting enemies by myself," Lee Kyung-jae said. "But it is hard being alone while facing the prosecutors' investigation. I will welcome whoever can help me."
|Cho Yun-sun, President Park Geun-hye's former secretary for political affairs, is being questioned at a meeting of the Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee by main opposition Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers at the National Assembly on Nov. 1. / Yonhap|
6. President's former secretary: ‘I never heard of Choi Soon-sil'
Cho Yun-sun, President Park Geun-hye's former secretary for political affairs, said at the National Assembly that she never knew about Choi Soon-sil while serving in the post.
Cho served from June 2014 to last May. She said at a meeting of the Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee on Tuesday that she never had a chance to talk to President Park in person during the time. She said she only talked to Park on the phone or in a group in her office.
Main opposition Democratic Party of Korea Rep. Ahn Min-seok criticized Cho: "If you really never knew about Choi while serving in the post, you would be the most incompetent secretary for political affairs in the history."
Cho replied: "Even if you say so, I have nothing to say."
7. Choi's daughter had DNA test to quell rumor
The informant is the son of the fourth wife of Choi Tae-min, father of Choi Soon-sil and the President's late mentor who is believed to be the founder of a fringe religious group called Yongsaenggyo, or the Church of Eternal Life.
"Because of the rumor, she went through the test at a young age (of 20)," the informant said, according to JoongAng Ilbo on Thursday.
Chung, a dressage competitor, allegedly received favors in admission and grading at Ewha Womans University. She once said on social media: "If you are not rich, blame your parents. Money is competency."