Choi Soon-sil Receives 3-Year Jail Sentence for Admissions Corruption

Choi Soon-sil is likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to college admissions corruption so prosecutors are probably trying to send a message to other people trying to do this with this sentence:

Choi Soon-sil

The Seoul Central District Court handed Choi Soon-sil a three-year prison term in the first trial Friday over charges she made Ewha Womans University provide favors for her daughter in admissions and grading.

This was the first court ruling for Choi over the influence-peddling scandal, which removed her longtime friend former President Park Geun-hye from office in March.

Hearings are taking place for other cases including allegedly pressuring conglomerates for funds and receiving bribes from Samsung in return for granting it business favors.

Choi has been detained and indicted on charges of work disturbance for making the school’s faculty change rules to admit her daughter Chung Yoo-ra and give her passing grades despite her absence from school. The independent counsel team led by Park Young-soo had sought seven years for that charge.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Seoul Court Denies Prosecutors Request to Arrest Chung Yoo-ra

Like I have been saying all along, I saw no evidence that Chung Yoo-ra did anything illegal.  It appeared from the start that the attempts to arrest her were to put pressure on her mom, Choi Soon-sil to cooperate on implicating former President Park in her allegedly corrupt dealings.  With Park currently behind bars and standing trial right now, there is less urgency to use Chung to pressure her mom:

Chung Yoo-ra brought to the district prosecutors office in Seoul. [Chosun Ilbo]

A Seoul court on Saturday rejected a prosecution request for the arrest of a daughter of ousted President Park Geun-hye’s friend at the center of a massive corruption scandal that removed the former leader.

Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Park’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, was freed after the court dismissed the prosecution request for her arrest.  [Yonhap]

Chung Yoo-ra Returns to South Korea and Denies Any Knowledge of Mom’s Alleged Criminal Activity

Look who is finally back home:

Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s close friend, speaks at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on May 31, 2017, after being extradited from Denmark a day earlier. The 21-year-old Chung, who had been held at a detention center in the northern Danish city of Aalborg since January, was taken to the prosecutors’ office in Seoul for questioning over allegations she received undue academic and financial favors based on her mother Choi Soon-sil’s ties with the former president. (Yonhap)

The daughter of former President Park Geun-hye’s close friend involved in a corruption scandal returned to South Korea on Wednesday after she was extradited from Denmark where she was in custody for five months.

Chung Yoo-ra, the 21-year-old daughter of Choi Soon-sil, arrived at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, at around 2:40 p.m. She was arrested by local authorities on a flight from Amsterdam where she transferred.

She denied any knowledge of the allegations against her, including inappropriate academic favors and financial support, during a brief news conference at a security area at the airport.

“I don’t know anything about what happened between my mother and the former president but on my personal level, I feel that it is unfair,” she said.

“(People) say that I received all this special treatment, but there isn’t much that I know,” she said. “I keep trying to put the puzzle pieces together, but it does not work all the time.”  [Yonhap]

Here is my favorite line from her interview with the media:

Regarding the university’s decision to revoke her admission, Chung said she “understandably accepts” it.

“I don’t even know what my major is and I never really wanted to go to university, so I don’t have much to say about the nullification of admission,” she said.

It seems the school is really the one at fault here not Chung.  If they were willing to let in Chung based on who her mom is that is the university’s problem.  As far as the alleged criminal activity her mom is accused of I have yet to see any evidence that Chung was in on it.  This all seems like a show to parade her around to the public in handcuffs.  I would not be surprised if later she is quietly released after the media attention dies down.

Park Geun-hye’s Lawyer States Prosecution Mostly Using News Articles as Evidence

I am not a lawyer so I am wondering if anyone who is a lawyer knows if news media articles can be considered evidence in a US court?  If so how strong of evidence would that be?:

Former President Park Geun-hye attended her first court hearing over the corruption scandal that removed her from office and denied all charges against her, Tuesday.

This is the first time in 53 days that she has made a public appearance since she was arrested, March 31.

Handcuffed and with her trademark hairstyle, Park arrived at the Seoul Central District Court before entering the courtroom at 10 a.m.

Park and her confidant of 40 years Choi Soon-sil saw each other for the first time in eight months since Choi left for Germany last September after the corruption scandal broke out.

Park entered the courtroom first and sat looking straight ahead not turning her head even the slightest, while Choi entered the courtroom and sat two seats away from her, next to her attorney Lee Kyung-jae.

When asked by presiding Judge Kim Se-yun, on her current occupation, Park said, “I don’t have an occupation.”

When offered a chance to speak, Choi whimpered and said, “I am a sinner for having Park whom I’ve been close to for more than 40 years stand trial.”

“I do not believe Park was involved in any criminal activities, bribery or otherwise. I think the prosecution is pushing this too far, and I wish the court would clear her of the suspected wrongdoings thereby letting her remain as the president who devoted her life to the country.”

Choi blamed her former associate Park Won-oh, a former head of the Korea Equestrian Federation, over allegations that Samsung offered financial support for her daughter, the former dressage competitor Chung Yoo-ra.

“My daughter already had her own horse when she was in Germany. Then Park asked Samsung for support and Samsung bought a horse and a car. I can take responsibility for that, but not the charges by the prosecution that the support for my daughter was in return for the government-backed merger of Samsung’s two units,” she said.

Park’s defense attorney Yoo Young-ha said the charges against her lacked foundation and largely relied on imagination, inference and media reports.

“Most of the evidence submitted by the prosecution is news articles. The prosecution determined news reports valid as evidence in a criminal case,” he said.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Choi Soon-sil and Park Guen-hye To Stand Trial Together

It will be interesting to see how this trial turns out that begins on May 23rd with both former President Park and her alleged partner in corruption Choi Soon-sil standing trial together:

Choi Soon-sil

The charges mostly center on an extortion racket Park and Choi allegedly ran out of Cheong Wa Dae by using two dubious nonprofits Choi set up and staffed with her drinking buddies.

The trial proper starts on May 23 and will bring the two women together for the first time since their schemes started to unravel last autumn and Choi fled abroad. The court rejected a request by Choi to be tried separately.

Choi’s lawyer Lee Kyung-jae, in a typically florid submission, said his client feels “unbearable shame” at having to stand trial next to Park, whom she respected for many years. Lee added the prospect is tantamount to the pain of “gouging out her own eyes.” [Chosun Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Danish Court Delays Sending Chung Yoo-ra Back to South Korea

It looks like Chung Yoo-ra the 21-year old daughter of the woman at the heart of the ROK presidential scandal will remain in Denmark a bit longer:

This file photo, taken from a clip on YouTube on Jan. 3, 2017, shows Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil at the center of a corruption scandal that has led to South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, holding an interview with Korean reporters at a court in the northern Danish city of Aalborg. (Yonhap)

The Danish prosecution on Tuesday deferred a decision over whether to repatriate the daughter of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s close confidante at the center of a high-profile corruption scandal.

South Korea’s special probe team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, has requested Denmark to send Chung Yoo-ra, the 21-year-old daughter of Choi Soon-sil, to Seoul so she could be questioned on a series of alleged wrongdoings related to the president.

Chung, who has been held in custody in the European country since last month, has so far refused to voluntarily return home to face a probe.

The Danish prosecution told the South Korean embassy in Copenhagen that it has yet to reach a final decision on the requested repatriation of Chung, and that it needs more time to pore over documents it has received from the independent counsel team.

The Danish prosecution has asked a court to hold deliberations on an extension of Chung’s detention on Wednesday morning. Chung’s detention is set to end at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I think the continued delays to repatriate Chung is an indication that the evidence against her is pretty weak.

Samsung Heir Lee Jae-yong Arrested for Corruption Linked to ROK Presidential Scandal

Considering the mountain of lawyers that Lee Jae-yong is sure to have I hope the ROK prosecutors have some indisputable evidence if they have any hope of convicting him:

Lee Jae Yong

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., enters the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul on Feb. 16, 2017, to attend a hearing on the legitimacy of his arrest sought for the second time by special prosecutors for alleged bribery involving impeached President Park Geun-hye and related to the merger of two of Samsung’s affiliates. (Yonhap)

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group’s de facto leader, was formally arrested Friday on charges of bribery in connection with a high-profile corruption scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her friend.

With the Seoul Central District Court issuing the arrest warrant, Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., became the first leader of the country’s largest business group to be detained in a criminal probe.

The investigation team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, requested the writ for a second time on Tuesday — less than a month after its first request on Lee’s charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury was turned down.

In their second pursuit of the warrant, the prosecutors leveled more charges against the tycoon, including hiding criminal proceeds and violating the law on transferring assets abroad in the process of giving bribes to the president’s friend Choi Soon-sil.

“The rationale for and the necessity of (Lee’s) arrest is acknowledged considering the new charges and additional evidence collected,” the court said in a text message sent to reporters.

The court, however, rejected the request for a warrant to arrest Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-jin, saying it is difficult to recognize the need for his detention.

Following the court’s decision, Lee is to stay at a detention center in Uiwang, south of Seoul, where he had been waiting for the ruling.

Prosecutors have suspected that Lee gave or promised some 43 billion won (US$36.3 million) worth of bribes to Choi in exchange for the government’s backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

A Detailed History of the Park Geun-hye Presidential Scandal

The below article from The Diplomat is a really good article that details the complexities and key players of the current ROK presidential crisis.  Like I have always said if it wasn’t for the tablet PC that JTBC News acquired the impeachment likely never would have happened due to the all the backroom deals in place to keep things quiet:

As someone living in Korea and having watched history unfold these last few months, it has been impossible to shake the feeling the media did what the Prosecution Service was reluctant to do. Without media involvement, the engagement of bystanders, and the propinquity of various storylines coming together, it appears possible and even likely the Choi Soon-sil scandal would have been snuffed out like so many other allegations before it. It was only after Park had been impeached and a special prosecutor assigned that more proper investigations began, culminating in the parliamentary hearings and the shocking indictment of Samsung’s chief, Lee Jae-yong. The courts, unfortunately, have yet to demonstrate a change from the norm, flatly denying the special prosecutor’s request for a warrant to arrest Lee, citing “a lack of evidence” despite overwhelming media coverage and Lee’s own admissions in parliamentary hearings to the contrary.

Based on the evidence presented here and in those hearings, it becomes difficult to view the current presidential scandal as a single, isolated incident. Instead, the picture painted depicts a deeply embedded tradition of backdoor dealings on an epidemic scale affecting all levels of government, especially the very bureaus that should be overseeing justice. Beyond influence-peddling, the scandal extends to strong-arm tactics to suppress the truth by manipulating the press, questionable due process in the courts, and possible tampering with the Prosecution Service.

Had it not been for Choi Soon-sil’s tablet, Park may have never been impeached.  [The Diplomat]

I highly recommend reading the whole thing at the link.  By the way I don’t think I will ever buy another Nature Republic product ever again after reading about the shadiness of its CEO in the article.