For the past several weeks, the country’s unprecedented allegations of influence-peddling surrounding President Park Geun-hye and a few of her closest acquaintances, including Choi Soon-sil, unwarrantedly monopolizing state affairs have shocked the nation. Most Koreans are seething with anger and frustration, and among those also stand university students. Student Government Associations (SGA) of numerous universities nationwide are issuing a declaration about the situation, reflecting the opinions of the student body in the university. Individual students are making independent efforts as well by putting up hand-written posters demanding that President Park resign and take responsibility for her misconduct in office.
Choi Soon-sil at the center of controversy
Choi, who is the daughter of President Park’s late mentor, Choi Tae-min, is alleged to have used her long-standing ties with President Park to exert actual influence over various state affairs. Due to the suspicion that Choi was involved in the state affairs and used these powers to satisfy her own interests, she was summoned to the prosecution for investigation on Oct. 31 after returning from Germany. She is suspected of having taken part in a variety of unlawful activities including being given access to several of the president’s speeches and confidential government documents related to diplomacy and security, diverting funds from conglomerates, and using her influence to admit her daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, into Ewha, according to the prosecution.
On Nov. 3, the prosecution issued a warrant acknowledging the fact that MI-R Foundation, a cultural foundation, and K-Sports, a sports association in which Choi is involved, forced about 53 conglomerates to provide funds to the association, amounting to 77.4 billion won. Among the funds collected for these organizations, some are said to have been sent abroad or used for Choi’s personal interests. The problem surfaced when it became known that Choi had been soliciting funds on behalf of her foundation, using her close relations with the president as leverage.
The ongoing investigation has revealed Choi’s deep involvement in many government affairs. Regarding the president’s speeches, broadcasting station JTBC reported that a record of Choi reading and editing the confidential documents along with 44 of the president’s speech files was found on a tablet PC allegedly belonging to Choi on Oct. 24. Acknowledging this fact, President Park made a public apology on Oct. 25 for sharing her speeches and files related to top secret government agenda with Choi to seek her advice.
During the investigation, the prosecution stated that Choi has denied many of the suspicions such as accessing government documents on the tablet PC in question and making illicit profits as well as intervening in government affairs. However, the prosecution made a tentative conclusion on Nov. 4 that the tablet PC in fact belongs to Choi, despite her denial.
Combining all the facts based on the investigation, Choi was finally arrested for two reasons: obstruction of the exercise of a right by intervening in fund-raising with a former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, Ahn Jong-beom; and attempted fraud for embezzling money from K-Sports using her own paper company The Blue K. Now, the suspicion of corruption is spreading to Choi’s close acquaintances. President Park announced that she would accept the prosecution investigation in her second public apology on Nov. 4.