Cha claims to know Kim Ki-choonCha Eun-taek, the director of TV commercials indicted Sunday on various charges, said through his lawyer that he met former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon on the direct order of presidential friend Choi Soon-sil.
Cha’s revelation, if true, could put the former chief of staff in a tough position amid rising suspicion over his relationship with Choi, the central figure in the so-called Choi-gate scandal imperiling the Park Geun-hye administration.
Cha’s lawyer Kim Jong-min said Sunday that the disgraced commercial director met Kim at his residence in June or July 2014 after he was sent there by Choi.
“The meeting was held because Choi told Cha to see Kim in person at his residence,” Kim was quoted as saying by the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday. The lawyer told the JoongAng he believed Choi had told Cha to visit Kim as a way to show the director her influence behind the scenes in the Blue House.
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 strong-arming the sale of an advertising company Choi coveted.
Prosecutors have accused President Park of colluding with Cha, Choi and a former senior presidential secretary to force the sale of an advertising company to Choi.
Cha, once known as the “Crown Prince” in culture circles because he held high-profile events that President Park attended, was detained on Nov. 8 after he flew to Korea from China.
The 77-year-old former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon vehemently denies any connection with the 60-year-old Choi. He has said he never met or talked to her. But suspicions of Kim’s knowledge of Choi’s alleged meddling in state affairs and the nature of her relationship with President Park persist.
Testimony from former employees of the Yookyoung Foundation, a charity founded by Park’s mother Yuk Young-soo before her assassination in 1974, said that Kim had come to the foundation headquarters in the late 1980s to resolve a dispute between the Choi family, whose members were board members of the foundation, and foundation staff. That seemed to confirm that Kim has known the Choi family for a long time.
Kim was one of Park’s most trusted presidential aides. Having passed the bar exam in 1960, the former prosecutor is said to have been one of the main authors of the Yushin Constitution, enacted in 1972 to pave the way for strongman Park Chung Hee, the father of incumbent president, to stay in power indefinitely.
Kim acknowledged his meeting with Cha but denied Cha’s claim that the meeting took place at the behest of Choi Soon-sil. “I met Cha one-on-one at my residence at President Park’s behest, not through Choi Soon-sil,” Kim said Sunday.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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