Park scolds critics for ‘slander’

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Park scolds critics for ‘slander’

President Park Geun-hye issued a bold warning to the opposition parties on Wednesday for their latest accusations surrounding her pet projects.

In a senior secretariat meeting, Park expressed concern that the nation is in a serious crisis in the aftermath of the North’s fifth nuclear test, a series of powerful earthquakes and economic troubles. “In times of emergency, rampant slander and unconfirmed disclosures will shake our society and fuel the chaos,” Park said.

Although she did not elaborate on the specific content of the slander or disclosures, it was evident that Park was referring to the latest political attacks by opposition politicians and local media.

The opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and the People’s Party recently claimed that a top Blue House official had strong-armed conglomerates to make massive contributions to the Mi-R Foundation and K-Sports Foundation. They said the nonprofit groups were approved only one day after they each filed applications to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, raising suspicion that the government was behind their creation and operation.

The Mi-R Foundation was launched last October to encourage cultural exchange and support companies involved in cultural products. The K-Sports Foundation was opened last January to promote Korean sports.

Within two days of its launch, the Mi-R Foundation collected 48.6 billion won ($43.6 million) from 19 conglomerates, including Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG groups. The K-Sports Foundation raised 38 billion won within six days of its launch.

Rep. Cho Eung-cheon of the Minjoo Party said Tuesday that Park’s confidant, Choi Soon-sil, was involved in the creation and operation of the two foundations. Choi is a daughter of Choi Tae-min, the late pastor who served as a mentor to Park, and ex-wife of Chung Yoon-hoi, who served as Park’s aide during her lawmaker days. She is known to be a close friend of the president.

Cho once worked as the presidential secretary for civil service discipline in the Park Blue House but turned his back on the administration in 2015. He claimed that Choi secretly visited the Blue House at nights and also influenced appointments of top presidential officials, including the scandal-ridden Senior Civil Affairs Secretary Woo Byung-woo.

Lawmakers of the Minjoo Party and the People’s Party also held a press conference and accused An Chong-bum, presidential senior secretary for policy coordination, for having strong-armed the Federation of Korean Industries and conglomerates to make massive contributions to the two foundations. The Blue House has flatly denied the accusations. “The allegations don’t even deserve my comment,” presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said Tuesday.

“Park was unable to hold back, as the opposition went too far in arguing that Choi is the hidden puppet master of this administration,” a presidential official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “She therefore issued a message to the opposition to stop this groundless political attack.”

He said the opposition parties should have produced evidence to substantiate their allegations, but they did not. “Park is putting all her attention into deterring the North’s nuclear arms program, but the politicians are being no help, at all. It is no wonder she became extremely frustrated.”

The opposition parties continued to raise allegations on Wednesday. At the National Assembly’s audit, Rep. Song Young-gil of the Minjoo Party said conglomerates that want to lobby for duty-free business licenses have made large contributions, as has Korean Air, the parent company of the troubled Hanjin Shipping, and their donations must have had hidden intentions.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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