Failing to woo the public

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Failing to woo the public

Former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Woo Byung-woo holds the key to opening the doors to the secrets behind the power abuse scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her friend, Choi Soon-sil, whose influence stretched from state affairs to strong-arming companies to make donations to her charity funds.

Woo was responsible for keeping a watch on any wrongdoing committed by people close to the president while in charge of civil affairs from May 2014 to October this year. Woo, who repeatedly shunned summoning by a parliamentary hearing on the scandal and became the target of a public bounty hunt, finally took the stand, but enraged the public further with his nonchalant responses and contradictory answers. His stone face remained calm as he casually refused to directly answer the questions, showing he is as arrogant and proud as if he had been a presidential confidant who controlled the prosecution, intelligence agency, tax audit authority and police. He did not show the slightest shred of respect for the public or remorse for causing so much harm through negligence.

Woo maintained that he was unaware of Choi’s influence while he served two and half years in the Blue House. He claimed he learned of it only in September when the media and lawmakers began to question the dubious role of the two nonprofit organizations Choi had created. Woo denied all the allegations against him — his role behind Choi’s return of 7 billion won ($5.8 million) to Lotte Group before the prosecution embarked on its probe, protection of the three personal secretaries of the president that took special care of Choi as if she was the first lady, the revelation about the active inner circle of Chung Yoon-hoi, Choi’s ex-husband and former chief secretary to the president when she was a lawmaker and whether he was recruited by the president through Choi’s recommendation.

He blatantly denied that his mother-in-law played golf with Choi, a fact that had been verified by several witnesses at the hearing.

The special counsel team investigating the same scandal should delve into Woo’s role behind the power abuse scandal. If Choi did play golf with Kim Jang-ja, Woo’s mother-in-law, in 2014, the mystery of how Woo ended up as the senior secretary for the president would be solved. It also would be clear why Woo tried to cover up the secret document of Chung listing Choi and himself as higher ranked than the president. It would mean Woo actually served Choi and her clan, not the president. The hearing failed to break Woo this time, but it justified the need to investigate Woo. Future proceedings should not stop until the truth is exposed.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 23, Page 34.
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