NATIONAL

Niece of Choi Soon-sil turns up in parliamentary hearing

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Dec 7, 2016 - 23:09
  • Updated : Dec 8, 2016 - 09:34
Jang Si-ho, the niece of President Park Geun-hye’s confidante Choi Soon-sil, appeared at parliamentary hearing Wednesday about 3:30 p.m. after previously refusing to attend, citing poor health.

The National Assembly summoned 27 witnesses with 14 of them, including the key figure Choi, refusing to attend prior to the hearing.

Jang was the only one among the absentees to respond to the parliament‘s order which was issued earlier in the morning.

Jang Si-ho, the niece of Choi Soon-sil (Yonhap)

Currently, the 37-year-old Jang is suspected of embezzling some 1.1 billion won ($940,000) from Samsung Group’s donation of 1.6 billion won to Korea Winter Sports Elite Center, an organization which she and Choi founded in an alleged attempt to make undue profits ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

When questioned over the accused embezzlement, Jang partly denied the given charges.

“The suspected amount of embezzlement is wrong. There is still a sufficient amount in the center’s account,” she said, in answer to Rep. Kim Han-jung of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.

“From what I know, the center received 600 million won from the Culture Ministry and 1.6 billion won from Samsung Group. They are used for students.“

Speaking for the Samsung Group was Kim Jae-yeol, president of Samsung Sports Business of Cheil Worldwide Inc.

“Samsung Electronics’ Global Marketing Group made the decision (to donate the 1.6 billion won),” Kim said.

As for the operation of the Korea Winter Sports Elite Center, Jang claimed that it was her aunt Choi‘s idea to create the center.

”When I was on Jeju Island, she suggested that I come and work (at the center). I wasn’t in a position to disobey her orders as she is my aunt,“ she said.

After filling in the application and establishment plans of the center, she turned it in to former Vice Culture Minister Kim Chong, she added.

While shifting the liability upon her aunt, Jang claimed that her mother and Choi’s elder sister Soon-deuk were not involved in the series of allegations.

”My mother has never visited (the doctor which Choi and the president allegedly visited for covert cosmetic surgeries), nor has she visited Cheong Wa Dae to meet with the president,“ Jang said.

Over the suspicion that she used her ties with Choi to enter Yonsei University, Jang argued that she won her acceptance upon her own ability as a student equestrian rider.

Just like Choi‘s daughter Chung Yoo-ra, Jang has also come under fire for excessive benefits when entering university in 1998.

Rep. Song Ki-seok of runner-up opposition People’s Party had previously released Jang’s low academic achievements in high school, suggesting irregularities in her college acceptance.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)