Embattled scholarship chairman steps down

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Embattled scholarship chairman steps down

Choi Phil-lip, chairman of the embattled Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation, resigned from his post on Monday night, after the inaugural ceremony of Park Geun-hye, in a move seen as an attempt to ease the political burden on the president.

The 85-year-old former presidential secretary for strongman Park Chung Hee, father of the president, had previously refused to step down from the post and dismissed all suspicions surrounding the manner in which the foundation was formed.

Liberals alleged the foundation was built with stolen assets and attacked Park Geun-hye over her career as former chairwoman of the foundation.

During the presidential campaign, even Park asked Choi to walk away, saying “this matter won’t be solved if you resist resignation.”

However, at around 7 p.m. on Monday, when President Park completed most of her official duties on her first day in office, Choi abruptly sent fax messages to local media companies, including the JoongAng Ilbo, saying “I step down from the position of chairman of the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation from today.”

“During the presidential campaign, there were groundless rumors about the foundation,” he said in the message.

“The reason I kept this position until now was because I was worried I might be embroiled in politics.”

Still, Choi said the foundation has no irregularities.

“As we can see the result of the investigation by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education [into the scholarship], the foundation has been run transparently and ethically, without a single fault,” he said. “The Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation is an officially authorized, public foundation, built by former president Park Chung Hee about 50 years prior.”

“Now I have completed all of my duties as chairman,” he said.

The controversial foundation was an Achilles’ heel for Park. Her critics used it to remind voters of the authoritarian rule of her father since the foundation was set up in 1962 with assets confiscated from a businessman in Busan. Park chaired the foundation for 11 years, between 1995 and 2005. Choi took over in 2005.

“With the advent of Choi’s resignation, we hope the foundation clears all suspicions and works for the people,” Jung Sung-ho, a senior spokesman of the opposition Democratic United Party, told a press meeting yesterday.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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