Park defends her own as scandal allegations fly

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Park defends her own as scandal allegations fly


In a luncheon on Sunday with Saenuri leaders, President Park Geun-hye addresses allegations that her former aide pulled strings on political affairs behind the scenes in cooperation with her key aides. By Park Jong-keun

President Park Geun-hye on Sunday rejected claims surrounding a snowballing influence-peddling scandal involving her former and incumbent aides, defending their innocence amid the prosecution’s investigation into the leak of a Blue House document detailing allegations of their abuses of power.

In a luncheon with leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and its lawmakers on the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, Park addressed the burgeoning allegations that Chung Yoon-hoi, a shadowy confidant of hers, has been pulling strings on political affairs behind the scenes in cooperation with her key aides. Rumors have also spread that a power struggle has taken place between Chung and Park’s younger brother, Park Ji-man.

“They are far-fetched,” President Park said. “How can a conflict take place between someone who left my side a long time ago and another who cannot set foot inside the Blue House?

“Chung left my side a long time ago and my contact with him has been severed,” Park said. “I also stopped my younger brother and his wife from visiting the Blue House, learning a lesson from the corruptions involving families of past presidents.”

She also expressed her undeterred trust in her key confidants in the Blue House - Lee Jae-man, the presidential secretary for administrative affairs, and Jeong Ho-seong and Ahn Bong-geun, personal secretaries to the president.

“The trio has assisted me for 15 years by my side,” Park said. “If they had problems, how can they be still serving the posts? Would I let them stay?

“It is truly embarrassing that the entire country is rocked by rumors that only appear on jjirasi,” Park said.

Jjirasi is a term derived from a Japanese word that refers to unverified slander that circulates across the stock market community and the media.

A series of allegations involving Chung was brought to light over the recent weeks after a local newspaper reported on Nov. 28 that Chung had met with certain senior secretaries in the Blue House and attempted to influence state affairs.

Park said it was unfortunate that unexpected controversies flared, although the National Assembly had given the public a rare gift by approving the next year’s budget before the statutory deadline - a first in 12 years.

“After one newspaper ran a report without proper verification, farfetched rumors have continued to surface,” she said. “Don’t be agitated by one-sided arguments and wait and see the outcome of the prosecution’s investigation.

“I have always worked to root out corruption and improve the public’s livelihood, and that will not change in the future,” Park said. “The economy is in an urgent situation and the ruling party must maintain its balance by avoiding groundless speculation and controversy.”

Park added that she would not be rocked by the scandal. “Honestly, I have nothing to fear,” she said. “The purpose of my life is to make this country great, so I have no reason to be shaken and I will never be shaken.”

This is the second time Park has defended her aides during the scandal. She made a similar remark on Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) vehemently criticized the president for attempting to influence an ongoing investigation.

“President Park issued yet another guideline to prosecutors today, following her earlier instruction on Dec. 1,” Rep. Park Soo-hyun, an NPAD spokesman, said Sunday afternoon. “Park should have apologized to the public and promised to lay bare the truth. Instead, she gave clear instructions to the ruling party leadership and the prosecution to deny the allegations.”

Following the initial media report, which based its allegations on a document created by the Office of the Presidential Secretary for Civil Service Discipline, Chung and a group of presidential secretaries asked the prosecution to look into the leak of the report.

The document reportedly stated that presidential secretaries Lee Jae-man, Jeong Ho-seong and Ahn Bong-geun regularly met with Chung and briefed him about the affairs of the president’s office.

The prosecution has launched a probe and has begun questioning officials involved in the creation of the document.

On Dec. 1, Chung also defended his innocence in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, saying “I will go to prison if I have done anything wrong.” On the same day, President Park condemned the leak of the Blue House document.

The scandal took a turn on Friday when the JoongAng Ilbo reported on a possible feud involving Park Ji-man, the president’s younger brother.

According to his close associates, Park had said he would reveal the truth if Chung continued to lie about having hired someone to track his whereabouts.

Former Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yoo Jin-ryong also said on Friday that the president had ordered him to demote two sports officials, calling them “very bad people,” after suspicions arose that they were punished for looking into special treatment that was alleged to have been given to Chung’s daughter, an equestrian.

“The people’s patience is running out on the continuing cover-up by the Blue House and the Saenuri Party,” the NPAD spokesman said Sunday, adding that it was embarrassing to witness the president have such a poor and unclear understanding of the situation.

“The president can remark only after the prosecution has concluded its probe,” he said.

“We want to emphasize that she was repeatedly giving instructions to the prosecution.”

The NPAD also asked the prosecution to investigate 12 people involved in the scandal, including Chung, the three presidential secretaries and Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Chong.

NPAD Representative Park Beom-kye, who led the opposition party’s initiative, said the alleged wire-pullers had privatized power and that a more in-depth investigation was needed. “The prosecutors judgment has already been compromised and they will likely focus only on the leak,” Rep. Park said. “We need a more objective investigation to shed light on what really happened.”

The opposition party asked the prosecution to investigate those alleged to have started the rumor in the stock market and media communities that Kim Ki-choon, the president’s chief of staff, would be replaced.

The prosecutors were also asked to investigate allegations that the president was influenced to order Yoo Jin-ryong, the former minister of culture, sports and tourism, to demote two sports bureau officials.

The two officials were demoted last year after they led a probe into allegations that preferential treatment was afforded to Chung’s daughter in being selected as a national equestrian champion.

The NPAD also claimed those same officials also prevented Yoo from carrying out his job when he was serving as the minister.

In addition, the NPAD asked the prosecution to investigate Lee Jae-man, the Blue House secretary for administrative affairs, on charges that he influenced Kim Jin-sun to step down as the chairman of the 2018 Pyongyang Winter Olympics Organizing Committee.

The opposition requested that it further investigate Vice Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kim for his reported connection to Lee.

The prosecution was also asked to investigate Ahn, a personal secretary to the president, on charges that he abused his power by influencing the appointments of police officials dispatched to the Blue House.

The main opposition party asked the prosecutors to investigate the presidential secretaries over suspicions that they leaked confidential Blue House information to Chung on a regular basis.

The NPAD also asked prosecutors to probe into a slew of allegations that Chung received money in return for his influence.

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