Investigate Cha’s connections

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Investigate Cha’s connections

President Park Geun-hye pitched cultural renaissance as one of her key agendas. Nearly four years into her term, we find the cultural and arts scene in shatters. The budget for creative art next year has been halved to 27.4 billion won ($23.7 million) from 52.2 billion in 2014.

Controversy over interference in the freedom of expression dominates the community. There was a rumor last month that 9,000 names are on a blacklist drawn up by the culture minister and vice ministers during their years in the Blue House.

At the center of the controversy is Cha Eun-taek, who was finally detained upon returning home from China. During his dramatic ascent from a little-known ad director to a man wielding mighty power over cultural affairs, we learn that his professor became the minister of culture, sports and tourism, his uncle the senior presidential secretary for education and cultural affairs and a close acquaintance head of the Korea Creative Content Agency.

Cha himself won the grandiose title of chief of the Creative Economy Initiative, the president’s signature agenda and headquarters of Culture Creativity Convergence. The business projects he initiated to create a so-called belt of cultural creativity convergence drew a net budget of 11.9 billion won last year. For next year, a 127.8 billion won budget was proposed.

He could not have done such extravagant work all by himself. When the secretary general of the Mi-R Foundation, which was run and created by the president’s controversial friend, Choi Soon-sil, asked Cha whether it was right to run the foundation in such a manner, Cha showed him the name card of Woo Byung-woo, the senior presidential secretary of civil affairs, to assure him that their back was covered.

An Chong-bum, former senior secretary for policy coordination, helped out in collecting funds from companies for the foundation.

No one except for the president can explain why her senior secretaries went that far to help out Cha.

The cultural and arts community vehemently demand that Park step down. The prosecutors are closing in on the Blue House. They have raided and searched the homes of the president’s personal secretaries, dubbed the “three doorknobs.” The prosecution must hunt down whoever was behind the powerful Cha. A thorough investigation is the only way the prosecution can recover its reputation and authority.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 10, Page 34

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