President colluded with Cha, indictment says

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President colluded with Cha, indictment says

Cha Eun-taek, a director of TV commercials and a confidant to presidential friend Choi Soon-sil, was indicted Sunday for abuse of power, attempted coercion and embezzlement.

Prosecutors accused President Park Geun-hye of colluding with Cha, Choi and a former senior presidential secretary to force the sale of an advertising company to Choi.

Cha is accused of using his ties to Choi and former senior presidential secretary An Chong-bum to win high-profile advertising deals with conglomerates, in addition to attempting a coerced sale of the advertising company. An and Choi were indicted Nov. 20.

Cha, once known as the “Crown Prince” in culture circles because he held high-profile cultural events that President Park attended, was detained on Nov. 8 after he flew to Korea from China.

According to An’s testimony to prosecutors, President Park pulled strings for Choi and Cha.

Prosecutors said Cha was made a member of the Presidential Committee for Cultural Enrichment in August 2014 after he was introduced to Choi’s close associate Ko Young-tae. Cha allegedly became acquainted with An at this time.

Last year, Cha and Choi tried to buy Poreka, an advertising company affiliated with Posco, but failed because Choi’s company Moscos, established in February 2015, was deemed to be too inexperienced. A company affiliated with the Lotte Group was also trying to buy Poreka.

“An said the president ordered him to ‘ensure Poreka is not bought by conglomerates, and look into the sale process of Poreka by meeting Posco CEO Kwon Oh-joon,’” the prosecution said in its indictment of Cha. “An called Kwon and asked him to pull strings so that Choi’s company could buy Poreka.”

According to prosecutors, Kim Hong-tack, head of Moscos at the time, met with Han Sang-gyu, CEO of an advertising company that bought Poreka in May, and demanded he sell 80 percent of Poreka’s shares “under an order from the Blue House.”

Han was told that if he didn’t comply, he would face a complete nullification of the merger. Song Sung-gak, former president and CEO of the Korea Creative Content Agency, also threatened Han, prosecutors said.

Han refused to budge despite the threats, and Cha and Song were indicted for attempted coercion.

Cha is also accused of trying to win advertising contracts from conglomerates by planting an acquaintance in prime positions at KT, the telecom provider. President Park was accused of playing a role in this scheme as well.

“An said Park ordered him last year to ‘get in touch with the CEO of KT to ensure that people named Lee Dong-soo and Shin Hye-seong can be employed at the company,” reads the indictment paper.

“Under these directions, KT CEO Hwang Chang-gyu ordered his secretary to place Lee and Shin in the advertisement section of KT,” prosecutors said. “Then in February this year, An said the president ordered him to ‘make sure Playground Korea [Choi’s advertisement company] is selected as the advertising agency for KT.’”

Hwang complied after An reportedly told him, “It’s an order from the president.” According to prosecutors, Playground made some 516 million won ($439,000) in revenues by signing seven deals with KT.

Song of the Korea Creative Content Agency, Poreka’s former CEO Kim Young-soo and Playground CEO Kim Hong-tack were also indicted Sunday.

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

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