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Education Ministry probes Choi's daughter

The Ministry of Education said Monday that it had launched a two-week special inspection into allegations that Ewha Womans University gave special treatment to the daughter of President Park Geun-hye’s embattled confidante.

The ministry dispatched an on-site inspection team comprising 12 ministry officials to the Seoul-based university. The inspection centers on Chung Yoo-ra, a horseback rider and the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, the woman accused of meddling in state affairs through her ties to Park.
Special inspectors dispatched by the Education Ministry enter a building at Ewha Womans University in Seoul on Monday for a two-week on-site investigation. The university is suspected of providing preferential treatment to Jeong Yoo-ra, the daughter of President Park Geun-hye’s now infamous friend Choi Soon-sil. (Yonhap)
Special inspectors dispatched by the Education Ministry enter a building at Ewha Womans University in Seoul on Monday for a two-week on-site investigation. The university is suspected of providing preferential treatment to Jeong Yoo-ra, the daughter of President Park Geun-hye’s now infamous friend Choi Soon-sil. (Yonhap)
Chung is suspected of being unfairly admitted into the university and receiving favorable grades despite missing most of her classes and repeatedly submitting assignments past deadlines.

The ministry is set to look into why the school added horseback riding to a list of categories open to student athletes in 2014, right before the dressage rider’s admission the following year, and whether the Asian Games gold medal that Chung obtained after the application deadline was considered in the application process.

The ministry will also probe whether professors gave her overly generous grades despite her not turning in assignments, and whether the school changed its academic policy to excuse her long absences from class.

Amid the snowballing allegations, Choi Kyung-hee, president of Ewha Womans University, resigned on Oct. 19.

The inspection came amid the escalating probe into the influence-peddling scandal involving Choi, as she returned to Korea on Sunday for prosecutorial questioning. Chung’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Critics urge the ministry to widen its probe to look into allegations the woman’s university secured eight of nine state-funded projects by the Education Ministry in return for providing special treatment to Chung.

According to measures to crack down on irregularities in university admissions released by the Education Ministry in March, Chung’s entrance into Ewha can be canceled and she can be expelled from the sports industry if the allegations prove true.

Choi, who is accused of pulling strings for her daughter, could also be subject to punishment and the university could be partially banned from recruiting students.

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education also launched an on-site inspection on Monday at Chung’s high school, Cheongdam High School, which is also suspected of receiving kickbacks from Choi and giving preferential treatment to Chung.

The high school in the affluent district of Southern Seoul is accused of creating a program in 2011 to accept dressage athletes in what critics see as an attempt to accept Chung into the school. Chung entered the school in 2012.

Chung allegedly attended the school for only 28 out of 193 days in her senior year in 2014, with the school excusing her for participating in training and competitions, according to official documents issued by the Korea Equestrian Federation.

The regional education office is slated to look into Chung’s records of attendance, academic records and the authenticity of the official document by the KEF to see whether special favors were given to Chung.

By Ock Hyun-ju  (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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