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CJ Group admits to being pressured to remove Vice Chairwoman

CJ Group Co-chairman Sohn Kyoung-shik said Tuesday that Cheong Wa Dae had pressured its Vice Chairman Lee Mie-kyung to quit.

Testifying before a bipartisan panel of lawmakers in a hearing at the National Assembly on Tuesday, Sohn admitted to having received the message purportedly from President Park Geun-hye via Senior Presidential Secretary for Economic Affairs Cho Won-dong.

“Cho asked to meet (me), and said ‘Vice Chairwoman Lee Mie-kyung should step down from office. This is a word from the president,’” Sohn said in an answer to Rep. Kim Kyung-jin of the People’s Party.

Vice Chairwoman Lee Mie-kyung

Vice Chairwoman Lee Mie-kyung
Lee is the daughter of late CJ Group founder Lee Maeng-hee. Current CJ Chairman Lee Jay-hyun is her younger brother.

The presidential secretary didn’t offer any explanation, Sohn said.

Lee, after hearing the message, did not believe it was from the president and wanted to hear the direct words from Cho, he added.

According to Cho’s testimony to the prosecution in November, President Park said it was unfair for a family member to stand in for the CJ chairman, who was at that time arrested for embezzlement. 

Local media suspect it may have been retaliation against Lee for her film projects, including 2013’s “The Attorney,” about deceased liberal President Roh Moo-hyun.

Lee stepped aside from management in early 2015 and has since stayed in the US.

Sohn also revealed he had two private meetings with the president. CJ is among several Korean conglomerates that provided donations to the Mir and K-Sports foundations, which are suspected to have been controlled by President Park‘s friend Choi Soon-sil.

“The government then had settled some policies for the culture industry. (The president) asked CJ Group to make efforts to foster the industry sector,” Sohn said.

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