Prosecutors investigate Park’s anti-aging doctor

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Prosecutors investigate Park’s anti-aging doctor

Prosecutors launched an investigation on Tuesday into allegations that a former doctor at an anti-aging clinic in Gangnam’s Cheongdam-dong treated President Park Geun-hye and gave her vitamin injections under the name of her scandal-ridden confidante, Choi Soon-sil.

Dr. Kim Sang-man, 54, was slapped with a travel ban the same day. Authorities said they will question him first and then widen their probe to medical staffers at the clinic, Chaum. The investigation was based on an official request by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which last week asked prosecutors to charge the senior doctor on violations of domestic medical laws.

Dr. Kim treated Park and Choi at Chaum from 2011 to February 2014 before transferring to Green Cross I-Med, a hospital in Seocho District, southern Seoul, in March 2014. He has led the hospital as CEO ever since. In August 2013, the doctor was appointed as a presidential medical consultant.

Green Cross I-Med announced Monday that Dr. Kim handed in his resignation but did not say whether it will accept it.

The start of a new probe was announced just hours after a local newspaper reported that the Blue House purchased 20 million won ($17,000) worth of anti-aging injections over the past two years from Green Cross Corporation, a pharmaceutical company and affiliate of Green Cross I-Med. All treatments were paid through public tax money.

Referencing a document that Rep. Kim Sang-hee, a third-term lawmaker of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and member of the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee, acquired from the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service on Tuesday, local newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported that the presidential office received 10 different anti-aging products through 31 transactions from March 2014 to August this year.

On official papers, the recipients were the “presidential office” and the “office of the presidential security,” the outlet reported, adding that the Blue House paid 20.27 million won in total.

All the products required a doctor’s prescription. It is not known how many injections were actually used on Park.

Through a statement released to the press on Tuesday, the Blue House acknowledged purchasing the injections but said all transactions were “properly made” through the awareness of the presidential medical staff. They were used by “everyone in the Blue House for health management,” the office said.

Dr. Kim’s allegations added another humiliating twist for the president last week when broadcaster JTBC exclusively reported that he did not treat Park under her real name, but under the name of Choi, Choi’s older sister, Choi Soon-deuk, and even Gil Ra-im - a character in the 2010 hit TV drama series “Secret Garden.”

Dr. Kim was also found to have prescribed vitamin injections for Park under Choi sisters’ names, all clear violations of domestic medical laws. At Chaum, Park received at least 29 treatments from 2011 to 2014, according to medical records obtained by the Health Ministry. On four occasions, she received vitamin injections under the name Choi Soon-sil, and three under the name of her sister, said Dr. Kim.

Even into her presidency, she was prescribed with 12 vitamin injections under the name of the older Choi.

But former Chaum staffers claim the president did not pay, raising suspicion that the clinic might have gained financial benefit through other routes. Last year, the hospital was able to secure 19.2 billion won worth of government funds until 2024 for medical research.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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