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[Newsmaker] A fall from loyal aide to heaviest burden

Choi Phil-lip, head of Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation
Choi Phil-lip, head of Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation
Choi Phil-lip, the 84-year-old chairman of the board for the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation, has become seen as a public enemy.

Son of a slain independence activist and former aide to late President Park Chung-hee, Choi has endured his opponents’ ceaseless calls for resignation as the foundation’s chief in succession to Park Geun-hye, the Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate, since 2005.

His headstrong position that the foundation, considered a remnant of Park Chung-hee’s authoritarian rule, is non-political and contributory to society has been so willful that no Saenuri Party member seemed able to persuade him to take a back seat.

Now as the condemnation surges against his purported deal to sell off the MBC equity to use the money for social projects in Busan ― a move that the main opposition Democratic United Party claimed was to help Park’s campaign ― even Park is expected to call for his retirement.

For Choi personally, such an appeal by Park may be a stab in the back.

For Park, making such a demand is a double-edged sword, as it may indicate her influence over the foundation, which she has consistently denied. Remaining mute hardly is an option either as the controversy is spilling over to her presidential campaign.

Choi’s relations with the Park family dates back to the 1970s, when Choi was Park Chung-hee’s chief of the presidential protocol, helping Park Geun-hye replace her mother’s role as the country’s first lady. He continued to serve as a diplomat until 1993. Choi also stood by Park in her 2002 move to launch a party.

Now it seems inevitable that Choi will take a more realistic view, and remove himself as the biggest hurdle for Park’s road to presidency.

It is still questionable whether a forced resignation for Choi will resonate among the skeptic voters critical of Park’s pledge to detach from the past.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)
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