Recordings of inner circle phone calls being studied

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Recordings of inner circle phone calls being studied

Prosecutors obtained recordings of conversations between former presidential aide Jeong Ho-seong and Choi Soon-sil, the controversial friend of the president suspected of pulling strings from behind the scenes, from two mobile phones Jeong used.

A prosecutor involved in the investigation into the so-called Choi-gate scandal told reporters Monday they had retrieved multiple recordings of conversations between Choi and Jeong. Recorded conversations between Jeong and President Park Geun-hye were also found, the prosecutor said.

Jeong, who worked as a personal secretary for President Park for 18 years until his resignation on Oct. 30, is being interrogated on charges of leaking classified presidential material including drafts of presidential speech and documents on inter-Korea contacts to Choi via email.

Jeong is being detained under a pretrial detention warrant.

The prosecutor denied a report by the Dong-A Ilbo Monday that the audio files involved Choi giving policy instructions to Jeong, while refusing to elaborate further on the content of the conversations. It remains unknown why Jeong recorded his conversations with Choi and President Park.

Android phones have a function for recording phone calls. Apps are also available for recording calls on iPhones.

It is reported that Jeong told prosecutors he had handed over classified material to Choi in consideration of her relationship with President Park, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.

Choi’s acquiring of classified material through An Chong-bum, former presidential senior secretary for policy coordination, via email was exposed after JTBC exclusively reported on about 200 files found on a tablet PC allegedly used by Choi.

JTBC, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, got possession of the device. JTBC reported that several documents found on the tablet were created using an ID that Jeong used at the Blue House.

Jeong was one of Park’s three closest aides in the Blue House along with Lee Jae-man, former presidential secretary for administrative affairs, and Ahn Bong-geun, presidential secretary for public relations. The three were nicknamed the “three doorknobs to the president” due to their access to her.

The trio left the presidential office on Oct. 30 when Park accepted their resignations in an attempt to appease growing public ire over the influence exerted by her friend Choi, with whom Park had a close relationship dating back to the 1970s.

Prosecutors continued their questioning of Choi, Jeong and An. All three are being detained on pre-trial detention warrants.

Prosecutors are also analyzing six mobile phones that were confiscated from An. Prosecutors are looking into details of an undisclosed meeting between President Park and seven heads of conglomerates in July 2015. Questions have arisen over the nature of the meeting amid speculation that Park could have asked them for contributions to two nonprofit foundations.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, HYUN IL-HOON [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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