Former chief of staff may have helped Choi family

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Former chief of staff may have helped Choi family

Testimonies have emerged that suggest former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon looked after the father of Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of a criminal investigation involving President Park Geun-hye, according to the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday.

Multiple sources told the JoongAng Ilbo that Kim tried to solve a dispute at the Yookyoung Foundation in 1987 on behalf of Choi Tae-min, Choi Soon-sil’s late father and the founder and leader of the cult known as Yeongsegyo, or “Spiritual World,” which combines tenets of Buddhism, Christianity and Korean shamanism. Because of this, some claim the president, who was very close with Choi’s father and volunteered for him, may therefore have been a brainwashed adherent.

The Yookyoung Foundation is a charity group founded by Yuk Young-soo, President Park’s mother, who was assassinated during a Liberation Day ceremony on Aug. 15, 1974.

“When a dispute over foundation management and corruption by Choi’s clan erupted in 1987, Kim Ki-choon visited the foundation a number of times to meet with Choi Tae-min,” said a source from the foundation, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The source said it was very well known among foundation workers that Kim was looking after the Choi clan at the time. Another source, a former foundation employee, said Kim had come to the charity group saying he would solve disputes with his legal expertise.

Kim, now 77, was director of the Institute of Justice under the Justice Ministry in 1987. He assumed a number of powerful positions during his legal career, including prosecutor general and justice minister in the 1980s and 1990s, prior to taking his job at the Blue House in 2013 as presidential chief of staff.

Kim’s relationship with the Choi family would suggest that the former prosecutor was well aware of the nature of the relationship between President Park and Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of acquiring classified information from the presidential office and meddling in state affairs, among other things.

Testimonies also contradict Kim’s claim that he does not know the Choi family and has never talked to Choi Soon-sil nor was he ever briefed about her during his time at the Blue House.

Kim continued to deny knowing about the Choi family on Monday in a telephone interview with the JoongAng. “I never made such a visit to the Yookyoung Foundation,” he said. “I only heard about Choi Tae-min, but never met him in person.”

He also denied using an office in a building owned by Choi Soon-sil, free of charge, during the first months of the Park administration in 2013.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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