NATIONAL

Prosecutors confirm evidence against Park

By Korea Herald

Prosecution wraps up investigation into scandal, indicts two more

  • Published : Dec 11, 2016 - 17:35
  • Updated : Dec 12, 2016 - 16:34

Public prosecutors said Sunday that hard evidence proves now-impeached President Park Geun-hye played a part in alleged crimes committed by her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and their shared inner circle.

Wrapping up a two-month investigation into the scandal that led to Park’s impeachment last week, prosecutors also called for further investigation by the independent counsel to determine whether the president’s actions could be considered bribery.

“We rendered the bribery allegation is substantial and deserves further investigation. We have handed over to the special counsel every document and material we have in order for him to proceed,” Lee Young-ryeol, the chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office told a press briefing.

Independent counsel Park Young-soo is to launch his investigation into the scandal this week, receiving the baton from the prosecution. 
Independent counsel Park Young-soo is surrounded by reporters on Sunday. (Yonhap)
One of the key charges brought against President Park is that she colluded with Choi and her former aides to force larges companies to fund two nonprofit foundations controlled by Choi.

The prosecution thinks the donations could be tantamount to bribes to the state head.

The arrested Choi and two former aides of Park are set to stand trial for fraud and embezzlement on Dec. 19, while Park, as a sitting president, is immune to criminal liability.

The National Assembly impeached the president on Friday, suspending her from office, pending a Constitutional Court decision.

The prosecution on Sunday indicted two more former officials and added new charges to President Park and Choi, Lee, the head of the Seoul prosecutors’ office revealed.

The official also confirmed the existence of hard evidences, aside from testimonies, to back up its claim.

Among them are 17 memo books of Park’s former aide An Chong-bum which detail Park’s directives given to him and 236 files of recorded phone conservations found on the mobile phone of Park’s another former aide Jeong Ho-seong. 

“An admitted that everything on the memo books was his accounts of the president’s directives given to him or minutes of meetings at the presidential office,” Lee explained.    

The prosecution also confirmed that a tablet PC, which was obtained by local TV channel JTBC and opened the floodgates of the scandal, belongs to Choi.

Choi has denied ownership of the device containing over 200 presidential files.   

The authority also said the president’s confidante had visited the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae at least 10 times, using a presidential office staff’s vehicle.

The two newly indicted are Kim Jong, former vice culture minister, and Cho Won-dong, former chief presidential aide.

Kim Jong, former vice culture minister (Yonhap)

Kim faces charges of abuse of authority, coercion and leaking information to the president’s civilian friend Choi.

Cho was prosecuted without physical detention for attempted coercion.

The two men are among high-level officials who allegedly helped Choi exercise influence in government affairs.

Cho Won-dong, former chief presidential aide(Yonhap)

According to prosecutors, Kim is suspected to have forced major conglomerates to donate more than $65 million to two foundations founded by Choi under threats of tax audits. It also named Park an accomplice in the case, saying they colluded in Choi’s efforts to force donations from large companies.

It added that Kim helped Jang Si-ho, Choi’s niece, collect subsidies worth 670 million won ($572,000), from Samsung Electronics and governmental agencies for Korea Winter Sports Elite Center, which was established by Jang in June 2015, a rare case for a new organization.

Prosecutors said that Cho is under suspicion of having pressured local food and entertainment giant CJ Group to fire its vice chairwoman, following a discussion with President Park.

The new independent counsel is set to probe Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi, whose admission into Ewha Woman’s University and high school graduation were canceled over revelations the school gave her special treatment in attendance and grading.

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)