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Choi Soon-sil gets jail term over daughter’s illegal college admission

Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye, has been sentenced to three years in jail for pulling strings to get her daughter into an elite university.

The Seoul Central District Court found Choi guilty of obstruction of duty by exerting influence on Ewha Womans University to give undue favors to her 21-year-old daughter Chung Yoo-ra, using her ties with the former president. The prosecution had sought a seven-year prison term for her.

“(Choi) is found to have committed wrongdoing too grave to consider as an act of a loving mother who wants the best for her child,” the court said in its ruling. 

Choi Soon-sil is being escorted to the courtroom. (Yonhap)
Choi Soon-sil is being escorted to the courtroom. (Yonhap)

Judges handed down a two-year and a 1 1/2 year imprisonment sentence to the university’s ex-president Choi Kyung-hee and former head of admissions Namkung Gon, respectively, for their role in the admission fraud.

In 2015, the school gave special favors to Chung, a former national dressage player, in the admissions process and grades despite her rarely attending classes. In return for admissions favors, Ewha received state subsidies and projects via her mother.

Chung, who is currently under prosecutorial investigation, recently said she didn’t even know what her major was and that she did what her mother told her to do. Prosecutors sought to arrest her twice for the school scandal and suspicions surrounding Samsung Group’s generous sponsorship of her for equestrian training, but the court refused to issue a warrant.

Monday’s ruling is the first made against Choi, who faces several more charges in connection with the wide-reaching corruption scandal which brought down Park.

Key among them is bribery. Choi is standing in a separate trial together with Park accused of extortion, abuse of power and attempted fraud to extort bribes from local business conglomerates while acting for years as an adviser to the ex-head of state.

By Bak Se-hwan (