Bring Choi backAfter ducking out of sight in Germany, Choi Soon-sil, the close friend of President Park Geun-hye at the center of an unprecedented abuse of power scandal in Korea, agreed to an interview with a Korean newspaper at a German hotel. She flatly denied involvement in the administration or any meddling in state affairs. While admitting that she edited some drafts of presidential speeches, she claimed that a computer tablet that contained a myriad of presidential documents was not hers.
In the interview, Choi said she does not know Ahn Chong-bum, senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, who was allegedly involved in collecting donations to establish two suspicious foundations. Choi also asserted that she never met Jeong Ho-seong, one of the president’s personal secretaries, after he entered the Blue House. Those pitiful excuses do not make sense at all.
Evidence collected by JTBC, the TV network of the JoongAng Media Group, point to Choi’s deep involvement in the Park government’s diplomacy and security policies. In normal circumstances, the Blue House’s secret documents cannot be leaked to the outside world. Approval is needed from the president or at least some kind of clandestine help from her secretaries. Nevertheless, President Park stated in an apology Monday that she received help from Choi in editing the drafts of her speeches. The evidence suggest she did a lot more than that, fueling suspicions over Park’s actual control of the office of the president.
If Choi’s claims are true, her refusal to return to Korea makes no sense. President Park’s approval rating has nosedived. Some 40 percent of the public think she should resign. The cause of this collapse of the Park government is Choi. She must come back quickly and clear all the doubts before it’s too late.
If the prosecution had reacted swiftly to the scandal, such a farcical interview by a local paper could not have been possible. One month after accusations by civic groups, prosecutors still appear to be dragging their feet. The Korean media dug into Choi’s trash bins in Germany and Korea to find evidence of her influence-peddling. Why didn’t the prosecutors?
The buck stops with the president. She must force Choi to return for an investigation. When public doubts linger, public outrage will not subside. The president must stop this ticking time bomb. She must resolve the worst crisis of her leadership. The president must bring her friend back home.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 28, Page 38