Civic group seeks probe into Park’s confidants

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Civic group seeks probe into Park’s confidants

A civic group formally asked the prosecution Thursday to launch an investigation into President Park Geun-hye’s confidants and dozens of tycoons over an allegation that the Blue House strong-armed conglomerates to make massive donations to her pet projects.

Spec Watch Korea filed a petition to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office to investigate Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of President Park, and An Chong-bum, presidential senior secretary for policy coordination, over the scandal. The opposition parties recently claimed that An had forced conglomerates to make massive contributions to the Mi-R Foundation and K-Sports Foundation.

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.

The opposition lawmakers accused An of having strong-armed the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) and conglomerates to support the two foundations, but the Blue House has flatly denied the accusations.

At the National Assembly audit of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Tuesday, An also rejected the charges. “It is absurd,” An said at the time. “I have never been involved in the fundraising process.”

The Minjoo Party also claimed that Choi 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.

The civic group urged the prosecution to investigate An, Choi and other executives of the two foundations on charges of receiving bribes. They also asked the prosecution to investigate Chairman Huh Chang-soo of the FKI and its vice chairman, as well as chairmen and CEOs of the 62 conglomerates that made donations to the foundations. The civic group said the tycoons should be investigated on charges of breach of trust. Spec Watch Korea argued that the FKI, the largest business lobby of the country, paid bribes to President Park through the two foundations in order to seek special interests in economic bills including the labor market reform measures. The group said the entire process of the fundraising should be treated as one massive bribery scheme.

“When the president was pressuring the National Assembly to pass the economic bills, her close aides, including An and Choi, received bribes from the corrupt conglomerates in return for their lobbying for the favorable legislation,” the civic group said. “And they probably wanted to use their influence to make the next president.”

The prosecution said it will assign the case to a team on Friday after reviewing the petition.

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

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