Choi Soon-sil’s daughter may be questioned

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Choi Soon-sil’s daughter may be questioned

Prosecutors are reportedly determining whether to summon Choi Soon-sil’s daughter, who is accused of receiving unjust admissions to and high marks at Ewha Womans University, which was allegedly strong-armed by a former vice minister of culture, reportedly a confidant to Choi.

Choi Soon-sil, the longtime friend of President Park Geun-hye, is accused of meddling in state affairs, embezzling funds of two nonprofit foundations and acquiring classified presidential information. She has been detained since Oct. 31 and has been appearing before prosecutors almost daily.

Her scandal has led to nationwide calls for the president’s resignation. Her daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, is currently in Germany. She is a sophomore at Ewha Womans University but has been on a leave of absence since September. According to her academic records, Chung received credits and grades unfit for a student who so often missed class without providing appropriate references.

But the crux of Chung’s scandal lies with those who allegedly pulled strings for her. Kim Jong, the former second vice minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and an alleged confidant to Choi, is accused of bribing the dean of Ewha’s College of Science and Industry Convergence and sports professor Kim Kyung-sook to admit Chung to the university.

According to an exclusive report by SBS, Kim Kyung-sook was elected as the head of the referee commission of the Korean Olympic Committee in June 2014, just three months before Chung passed admissions at Ewha. Chung was admitted as a student equestrian athlete that year, which happened to be the first year the university allowed special admissions for equestrian athletes - a decision suspected to have been influenced by Kim. Kim was also appointed a member of the board of directors at the Korean Olympic Committee in March this year.

A senior member of the Korean Olympic Committee told SBS that Kim Jong, a confidant also to Kim Kyung-sook, was deeply involved in strong-arming Ewha staff to create a favorable environment for Chung.

Critics also suspect that Kim Kyung-sook and others at the university, in return for allegedly bestowing favors upon Chung, received government funds. Ewha won initiatives with the Ministry of Education this year that amount to 17.8 billion won ($15.4 million), while nearly half of private universities in Korea failed to win any ministry project. The Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea will be issuing the results of its investigation into allegations concerning Ewha and its projects.

Ewha’s president, Choi Kyung-hee, resigned last month over Chung’s scandal. Kim Jong also received media attention in 2014 when he held two press conferences on behalf of Chung to defend Chung against suspicion that she used her ties to high-level officials to get selected as a national equestrian athlete that year. Prosecutors plan to summon Kim in the near future.

Chung is also mired in another corruption allegation that concerns Samsung Electronics. Samsung was raided by prosecutors this week under allegations that it transferred 3.5 billion won to a shell company created by Choi, Widec Sports, in Germany for the supposed purpose of promoting Korean equestrian affairs. Prosecutors suspect some of the money was spent on purchasing a horse and an entire horse-riding arena for Chung.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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