A scandal snowballs

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A scandal snowballs

A Pandora’s box has been opened, releasing a geyser of vile irregularities in unimaginably wicked proportions.

The culprits — Choi Soon-sil and her corrupt circle — are concocting all kinds of lies and excuses in the hopes of escaping unscathed. But there is more than enough evidence pins them down and make them pay for their felonies and the condemnable manner in which they abused unauthorized power.

Their excesses — squeezing money out of companies to enrich a private organization for Choi ­— were acts that even our past authoritarian military regimes did not commit. A series of allegations suggest that the 80 billion won ($69.71 million) drummed up for the two foundations from Korean companies may just have been the tip of the iceberg.

The K-Sports Foundation, a so-called charity set up by Choi and her followers, committed robbery by arm-twisting money out of Lotte Group. It forced the conglomerate to cough up 7 billion won in May in addition to 4.5 billion won when Lotte was facing a prosecution probe.

When prosecutors embarked on an investigation, it returned the money, fearing it could be traced. An Chong-bum, the senior presidential sectary for economic affairs at the time, reportedly gave the order. An denies the allegation, but from what we have learned so far, An may have acted on Choi’s behalf.

K-Sports also demanded 8 billion won from SK Group early this year but called it off when the group said it could only squeeze out 3 billion won. SK at the time had been trying to get its chairman out of jail and get its businesses in order.

Cha Eun-taek, a visual artist dubbed the “Crown Prince of the cultural community,” reportedly tried to strong-arm a company to cough up company shares. His people threatened the company with tax audits. The head of the state-run Korea Creative Content Agency is said to have been among the gang.

There are also reports that An and the former senior presidential secretary for education were involved in the creation of a private company of Choi’s. The prosecution must act fast to clear up the snowballing allegations.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 29, Page 30
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