Presidents’ confidant remains loyal to the end

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Presidents’ confidant remains loyal to the end

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The funeral service for Choi Phil-lip, former chairman of the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation and a close confidant of President Park Geun-hye and her family, was held yesterday at the Asan Medical Center in eastern Seoul. Choi died Wednesday of natural causes at age 85. [NEWSIS]

The funeral for Choi Phil-lip, former chairman of the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation and a close confidant of President Park Geun-hye and her family, was held yesterday at the Asan Medical Center in southeastern Seoul. Choi died Wednesday of natural causes at age 85.

Born in Pyongyang in 1928, Choi was a close aide to former President Park Chung Hee, who put the country under authoritarian rule for 16 years until he was assassinated by his own security chief in 1979.

Choi served as Park’s chief of presidential protocol and assisted his daughter Geun-hye, now the country’s president, when she was thrust into the role of the country’s de facto first lady after her mother was fatally shot in 1974 in a botched assassination attempt on the former president. Choi caught media spotlight during last year’s presidential election campaign because of his role as chairman of the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation, which was set up by the former military strongman.

Park Chung Hee established the foundation in 1962, a year after he carried out a military coup that brought him to power. Critics have claimed the former president set up the foundation by illegally seizing assets from Kim Ji-tae, a Busan businessman.

The foundation still has a 30 percent stake in major broadcaster Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. and a 100 percent stake in the Busan Ilbo daily newspaper. President Park was chairwoman of the foundation from 1994 to 2005. She said during the presidential campaign last year that she had no ties to the foundation any longer after political rivals attacked her for virtually controlling it.

Choi resigned as chairman of the foundation on Feb. 25, the day President Park was inaugurated.

According to Choi’s family, his final words were: “Now with Geun-hye as president, I am going to report to President [Park Chung Hee].”

He was buried in Paju, Gyeonggi, yesterday.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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