NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] Ex-Park aide shrouded in speculation

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Dec 2, 2014 - 21:50
  • Updated : Dec 2, 2014 - 23:03

The scandal centered on Chung Yoon-hoi continues to expand and threatens to bring rival parties to a headlong clash, but little is known about the man himself.

It has been alleged that Chung is at the core of an unofficial group of advisors to President Park Geun-hye, and that he has colluded with three presidential secretaries on a regular basis to exchange classified information on her state management. Chung and his supposed collaborators are also alleged to have tried to pull strings to replace Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and officials in other top positions.
Chung Yoon-hoi

The little that is known about the man serves only to paint a sketchy picture of his relationship with the president, and raises even more speculations.

Chung served as Park’s aide when she entered politics in the late 1990s, and remained at her side through thick and thin.

In 2002, he served the president as her chief secretary when she left the defunct Grand National Party to found the short-lived Korea Coalition for the Future.

Chung followed her when she joined the GNP, and remained at her side in an official capacity until she took the helm of the conservative party in 2004.

The mysterious aide, however, is rumored to have continued serving Park from behind the scenes. He has been linked to the so-called “Samseong-dong team” that is reported to have worked on Park’s campaign to win the GNP’s presidential candidacy in 2007.

What has been confirmed about Chung’s professional connection to the president is not especially suspicious. The personal ties that connect him to Park, however, have fed many speculations and rumors.

The mysterious Chung is the son-in-law of Choi Tae-min, who himself has been the source of myriad rumors ― ranging from the sordid to bizarre ― about the president since her days as the acting first lady when her father was president. Choi, now long dead, was a pastor who gained Park’s confidence after her mother was killed, providing her with spiritual sanctuary. However, he is rumored to have abused his close relationship with the president to gain influence.

Similarly, Chung’s relationship with the president and his recent actions are surrounded in speculations and contrasting claims. Since the reports citing intelligence reports compiled by Cheong Wa Dae came out, Chung has claimed that he is being targeted by the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.

“After resigning as (Park’s) chief of staff in 2007, I have lived as an outsider. (I) have had no contact with the president or the presidential staff,” he told a local daily. He also claimed that the police superintendent who is accused of leaking the information to the media told him that the documents were compiled under orders from higher-ups.

“The bigger problem is that manipulated information was made official. I think that somebody is trying to damage me. (The situation) is (being) manipulated by the office of the civil affairs secretary.”

For his part, Jo Eung-cheon, the former presidential secretary for civil servants’ discipline whose office drew up the document in question, claims that much of the intelligence is credible.

In an interview with a local daily, Jo said that the information in the documents was too detailed to be discredited out of hand, and that the police superintendent who compiled them has nothing to gain from lying.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)