Prosecutors summon top conglomerate executives

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Prosecutors summon top conglomerate executives

Prosecutors on Thursday began summoning executives of major conglomerates in Korea for funding foundations linked to President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, and are expected to question Park’s former key aides as the probe tightens on the national scandal threatening Park’s administration.

Choi is alleged to have been the de facto power behind the throne, meddling in top state affairs, gaining access to top-secret materials and strong-arming conglomerates to donate lavish sums to foundations linked to her.

Prosecutors on Thursday summoned the heads of conglomerates over allegations that they illegally funded foundations linked to Choi under the influence of the Blue House.

The two foundations, Mi-R and K-Sports, collected 77.4 billion won ($67.1 million) from 53 conglomerates just days after their launch and are thought to have been created by Choi as slush funds for Park to use after she is scheduled to leave office in February 2018.

Prosecutors on Thursday summoned executives and high-level officials of Kumho Asiana Group, Posco, Booyoung Group and LS Group. Those of Hyundai Motor Group, LG Group, CJ Group, Hanwha Group and SK Group were summoned on Tuesday, and an executive of Hanjin Group was summoned on Wednesday.

Prosecutors questioned the executives over how they came to pitch extravagant funds to the foundations and what role An Chong-bum, former senior Blue House secretary for policy coordination, played in the process.

An is accused of collaborating with Choi to strong-arm the conglomerates. The local court issued a pretrial detention warrant for An on Sunday.

Prosecutors plan to summon in the near future seven heads of major conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo and LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo, over allegations that Park requested them to fund the foundations in a closed-door meeting in July.

The probe into Choi is also centering on Park’s former key aides.

Prosecutors on Wednesday raided the homes of Lee Jae-man, former senior presidential secretary for administrative affairs, and Ahn Bong-geun, former senior presidential secretary for public relations.

Lee and Ahn were two of the so-called three doorknobs at the Blue House.

The two tendered their resignation, which was accepted on Oct. 30, over allegations that they helped Choi interfere in state affairs by giving her classified materials and access to the Blue House without security clearance.

The two are also expected to be summoned by prosecutors in the near future.

Another key aide and the third doorknob, Jeong Ho-seong, is already being detained on charges of leaking classified material to Choi.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, AN MIN-GU [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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