Former President Park Reportedly “Regretful” that She Was Fooled By Choi Soon-sil

Here is the latest update on the status of ex-ROK President Park Geun-hye who continues to be jailed despite not being convicted of anything:

Yoo Yeong-ha

Former President Park Geun-hye, currently facing a criminal trial for conspiring with her friend to receive bribes from conglomerates, is extremely regretful that she was fooled by her longtime confidante, Park’s onetime defense lawyer said Wednesday.

Park was indicted in April 2017 for having abused her power to receive bribes from conglomerates by conspiring with her friend, Choi Soon-sil.

The former president is also charged with leaking confidential information to Choi. She has been boycotting the trial since October, describing the accusations as “political retaliation.”

All her lawyers, including a longtime associate, Yoo Yeong-ha, resigned from the case to protest a judge’s decision to extend her detention to April 2018.

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Yoo spoke for the first time about the case and his client. It was Yoo’s first media interview since Park was impeached and ousted from presidency in March of last year. The interview took place on Wednesday, and the JoongAng Ilbo published it in Friday’s edition.

Yoo said Park had not known about Choi’s alleged illicit activities when she was president. “The National Intelligence Service, police and the presidential senior secretary for civil affairs never briefed her about Choi,” Yoo said. “She said it is unfortunate that no one informed her about Choi’s activities.”

Park was indicted in April for alleged crimes committed during her failed presidency. Prosecutors said Park, in collusion with Choi, received massive bribes from conglomerates through two cultural and sports foundations Choi practically controlled. Samsung’s contributions to the foundations and generous sponsorship of equestrian training for Choi’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, were described as bribes, and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was also indicted for offering or promising the president a total of 43.3 billion won ($40.7 million).

Yoo said Park is firm on three key issues surrounding her charges. “Park is firm that she never heard from Choi that Samsung Group offered support for Choi’s daughter’s equestrian training,” Yoo said. “Park is also firm that she never asked Samsung Vice Chairman Lee to support Choi and her daughter. She also stands firm that she never ordered An Chong-bum, then senior economic affairs secretary, to create foundations.”

Regarding the newly added charges that Park had misappropriated the funds of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and used the money for private purposes, Yoo said the former leader is also innocent on this count. Earlier this month, the prosecution said Park had used 1.5 billion won of misappropriated NIS funds for private affairs, including beauty treatments.

Yoo had visited Park at the Seoul Detention Center after the new charges were added. Speculation was high that Yoo would be rehired, but Park ultimately did not retain him.

“At the beginning of her term, Park was briefed that the Blue House of the previous administrations had received money from the NIS and used it, and there is no legal problem involving the practice,” Yoo said. “She therefore told her officials to do business as usual. She never received any report about spending the NIS money.”

Yoo added, “It’s also not true that Park used the NIS money for private affairs. A president has their own special-activities account. There’s no reason for her to use the NIS money.”

Yoo also said it is unfair to hold Park accountable for the administration’s creation and operation of a blacklist of liberal artists to oppress them and cut their funding just because she was briefed about a plan.

“She doesn’t seem to recall any specific order,” Yoo said. “If you argue that she made a tacit order for something just because she received a briefing about it, it means that presidents will be linked to all sorts of crimes in the future. No administration will be safe, if you use that logic.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but on this issue I have yet to see the evidence that Park ever accepted a bribe or knew what Choi was up to.  If this all ends up being smoke and mirrors to get her out of office this is going to cause a precedent that whenever the conservatives take power they will legally go after liberal presidents for real or imagined reasons as well.

SK Construction Raided By South Korean Authorities for Corruption Involving Expansion of US Military Base

The corruption probes and investigations surrounding the expansion of the US military base Camp Humphreys in South Korea continues:

Picture of construction during the Camp Humphreys expansion project.

South Korean prosecutors have raided the offices of one of the nation’s largest conglomerates amid allegations it offered multimillion-dollar kickbacks to the US Army in exchange for construction contracts.

Dozens of investigators were dispatched to the headquarters of SK Engineering and Construction in downtown Seoul on Friday to confiscate computer hard disks, documents and other material related to construction projects at a new US army base in South Korea’s Pyeongtaek county.

The prosecutors are investigating allegations that the company — an affiliate of the nation’s third-largest conglomerate, SK — gave almost $3m to a US army officer in 2010 to steer a $420m dollar construction contract in its favour.

The officer, Duane Nishiie of the US Army Engineers Corp, was indicted in September in Hawaii on charges including bribery, wire fraud and money laundering related to the case. Lee Seung-ju, a former officer in the procurement department of Seoul’s defence ministry, was indicted on the same charges.

SK Engineering and Construction declined to comment. US Forces Korea was not immediately available to comment.

“The raid was needed to look into the bribery claims linked to a US military contract,” the prosecutor in charge of the investigation told the Financial Times.   [The Financial Times]

You can read the rest at the link.

Former President Park is Claiming “Political Persecution” and Human Rights Violations Over Continuing Detention and Trial

According to the Korea Times there is a bunch of mounting evidence against former ROK President Park Geun-hye proving she is corrupt has been found:

Ousted former President Park Geun-hye, who is on trial over massive corruption allegations, seems to be seeking sympathy from international society by claiming she is suffering from “political persecution.”

The change of strategy may have come because she is unlikely to get a favorable verdict in the trial, with her detention being extended recently for another six months.

But it seems unclear whether her playing the victim of political retaliation will work, because more and more evidence unfavorable to her is being found, and she has already faced strong criticism for denying all the allegations and attempting to cover them up.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but I would love to see a roll up of this evidence and how Park ordered a cover up.  I have yet to see a definitive roll up of the evidence just accusations in the media.  Maybe at some point we will see the evidence that proves she is corrupt.

Here is probably the statement that concerned me the most in the article:

Rep. Park Beom-kye also said she has four to six times as much space as other inmates, has enough furniture and received outside medical treatment at a hospital twice. “She can also receive treatment inside the prison any time she wants. The claim (of human rights violations) is unreasonable,” he said.

“She committed very serious crimes but she and the MH Group are likely to package her as a victim of political retaliation.”

The cell conditions I am less concerned about then the fact that Representative Park Beom-kye has already declared her guilty with no presumption of innocence until proven guilty.  That just feeds into Park Geun-hye’s claims that this is a political persecution.

Korean Airlines CEO Being Investigated for Corruption

Does everyone remember Heather Cho of “Nut Rage” fame?  You would think her chaebol owning dad would keep a low profile after such a high profile incident involving his family.  Well that was not the case as he is now being targeted by authorities for corruption:

Cho Yang-ho

The police’s request for a warrant to arrest Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho accused of fund misappropriation was rejected by the prosecution on Tuesday.

Cho, who doubles as CEO of Korean Air Lines Co., is under investigation over suspicion that he siphoned off 3 billion won (US$2.6 million) from company funds to pay for his house remodeling expenses between May 2013 and August 2014. Police made the writ request for Cho on Monday on possible charges of breach of trust.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it instructed the police to further investigate the case to substantiate his charges.

He was questioned by police last month. He has denied any wrongdoing, saying he had no knowledge of the misappropriation.

The allegations were raised during a separate police investigation into possible tax fraud by an interior renovation company that works largely for business conglomerates.

In early July, police investigators raided the airline’s headquarters in western Seoul and confiscated accounting books and contract documents.  [Yonhap]

That must be some serious renovations to cost $2.6 million.

American Charged with Receiving $2.8 Million In Bribes from Korean Company for Contracts

More corruption charges related to the Camp Humphreys relocation project:

Picture of construction during the Camp Humphreys expansion project.

A 58-year-old Pearl City man is in custody at the Federal Detention Center on charges that he accepted and hid more than $2.8 million in bribes that he solicited to steer more than $400 million worth of engineering and construction work to a particular South Korean-based multinational company when he worked as a contracting officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment Thursday charging Duane Nishiie and South Korean national Seung-Ju Lee, 50, with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, money laundering and lying in connection with the awarding of two contracts that are part of a massive, ongoing U.S. Army relocation project in South Korea.

Nishiie pleaded not guilty Friday. Lee has yet to answer to the charges.  (…….)

According to the indictment, Nishiie and Lee steered a December 2008 infrastructure and engineering contract worth more than $400 million to a particular company and a March 2010 construction contract worth more than $6 million to the same company in exchange for bribes. Lee was an officer in the procurement arm of the Korean Ministry of Defense, which is working with the U.S. government on the Army relocation project.  [Honolulu Star Advertiser]

You can read more at the link.

Samsung Heir Lee Jae-yong Convicted and Sentenced to 5 Years In Corruption Scandal

I think this conviction means that former President Park will likely get convicted as well for corruption:

Lee Jae-yong

A Seoul court sentenced Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong to five years in prison Friday, finding him guilty of bribery, embezzlement and other charges in a massive corruption scandal that led to the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down the verdict, convicting Lee of involvement in Samsung’s provision of 7.2 billion won (US$6.38 million) in bribes for the equestrian training of the daughter of Park’s longtime friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil.

Prosecutors had demanded a 12-year jail term for Lee on charges of offering or pledging 43.3 billion won of bribes to win the government’s blessing for a merger of two Samsung units under terms designed to increase his control over the entire Samsung empire so as to cement a power transfer from his ailing father Lee Kun-hee.

“The crux of this case is close collusion between political and capital powers,” the court said in the verdict. “It appears to be difficult for the people to recover from disappointment in that collusive ties between the president and a large conglomerate existed not in the past, but in the present.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the article says that former President Park made demands to Lee that Samsung give money to Choi Soon-sil so her daughter could receive equestrian training.  Park is an idiot if that is in fact what happened.

Anyway it will be interesting to see how the appeals process works.  I would not be surprised that after this blows over that the appeal quietly happens and Lee receives a suspended sentence and is out of jail.

Former Aids to President Park Receives Prison Sentences for Managing “Cultural Blacklist”

It will be interesting to see if any of these ex-aids of President Park were flipped to give evidence against her?  These sentences makes me think that if the prosecutors cannot get President Park on the Samsung corruption charges then maybe they will convict her for knowing about this “cultural blacklist” her aides were running:

This combined photo shows former chief of staff Kim Ki-choon (L) and ex-Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun entering the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul on July 27, 2017, to hear their sentencing. (Yonhap)

A former top aide of ousted president Park Geun-hye was sentenced to three years in jail on Thursday for running a list of culture figures critical of the government that barred them from state support.

The Seoul Central District Court doled out the sentence to former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon after finding him guilty of abuse of power and perjury.

But Cho Yoon-sun, who served as the culture minister under the Park administration, was acquitted of her charges related to the so-called cultural blacklist and was released from prison after the court gave her a one-year jail term suspended for two years. The court found her guilty only of lying before the parliament at a hearing on the blacklist scandal last year.

The special counsel team investigating the case demanded seven years in prison for Kim and six years for Cho in the final hearing on July 3.

Kim’s lawyers immediately vowed to appeal the ruling, calling it “unjust.”

The court also sentenced five other former ranking government officials to 18 months to two years in jail, with some on probation, for their involvement in creating and managing the blacklist.

Former culture minister Kim Jong-deok was sentenced to two years in prison, while former presidential education and culture senior secretary Kim Sang-ryul was handed an 18-month imprisonment. Former presidential culture and sports secretary Kim So-young was given 18 months in jail, suspended for two years.

Former vice culture minister Chung Kwan-joo and ex-presidential aide Shin Dong-churl were sentenced to one year and a half in jail each.

The artist blacklist is part of a massive corruption scandal that removed Park from office in March. Kim and Cho were indicted in February for masterminding the creation of a register of nearly 10,000 artists, writers and filmmakers deemed unfriendly to the conservative administration. Those on the list were denied state subsidies. The accused have maintained their innocence.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

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]

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.