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President accused of back-door appointment

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Published : 2014-10-28 21:30
Updated : 2014-10-28 21:30

An opposition lawmaker has charged that a former sports instructor appointed as an administrative staff member at Cheong Wa Dae is secretly a personal trainer to the president.

Rep. Choi Min-hee of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy claimed Tuesday that the presidential office hired Yoon Jeon-choo, a famous personal trainer, for a director-level post at the presidential office early last year.

Choi said that Cheong Wa Dae had been lying about her actual role, adding that she has evidence that Yoon is President Park Geun-hye’s personal trainer.

It is rare for government agencies to recruit inexperienced people for such high positions. It takes more than 20 years for a high-flying public official to reach the position held by Yoon. She is also the youngest person to hold a director-level title in Korea. Her questionable credentials are encouraging critics to cite her as a prime example of Park’s poor personnel choices.

Choi, quoting an anonymous source, said Yoon’s office had also bought equipment for pilates worth 100 million won, a fitness program popular among celebrities here. The equipment was bought between February and March last year, right after Yoon was appointed to the post.

“Cheong Wa Dae has set up a pilates studio for the president to stay in good shape,” said the lawmaker. “It raises suspicions that former trainer Yoon was (hired) to keep the president in good shape, and not to serve on her administrative staff,” she added.

The lawmaker added that Cheong Wa Dae has not yet responded to her request to see the purchase list of the equipment.

Yoon, 34, is a famous fitness trainer whose former clients include top actresses Jun Ji-hyun and Han Ye-sul. The trainer, who has no administrative or political experience, now serves as a mid-level administrative staff member at Cheong Wa Dae’s second Secretariat Office, which existed to serve first ladies.

Park, unmarried, had said early last year that she will retain the office, but will slightly change its function to handle civil complaints reported to Cheong Wa Dae. The office reiterated that Yoon was hired to process such administrative work, but sometimes works as an assistant to the president. The presidential office has also denied similar reports, saying that Yoon’s hiring process had no problem both legally and ethically.

At a parliamentary hearing session held later in the afternoon, an official said that Cheong Wa Dae purchased the sports equipment for its own staff and reporters covering the presidential office.

Rep. Choi requested the official to identify Yoon’s personal information and asked whether he thinks she is qualified for the job. Lee declined to answer, citing the issue as a confidential matter.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)