Counsel team raids Ewha once again as part of Yoo-ra probe

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Counsel team raids Ewha once again as part of Yoo-ra probe

Ewha Womans University was raided Thursday for the second time in a month as the independent counsel looked into allegations that the prestigious institute gave preferential treatment to Chung Yoo-ra, daughter of presidential confidante Choi Soon-sil, in return for government grants worth 17.8 billion won ($14.7 million).

Investigators combed through 10 areas, including several offices on the campus in Seodaemun District, western Seoul, and the home of former Ewha President Choi Kyung-hee.

Choi resigned in October over allegations she was responsible for the special treatment, though she denied any wrongdoing. The school has yet to expel Chung, citing “administrative procedures” for the delay.

Two probes, led separately by the Ministry of Education and the Ewha board of trustees, concluded that Chung, who gained admission in 2015 as an equestrian athlete, was given a wide range of preferential treatment with respect to her admission, grades and attendance scores.

The 20-year-old took leave from school in September and is suspected to be hiding in Germany.

The independent counsel, which last week launched a 70-day probe into the abuse of power scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, vowed to look into accusations that Ewha made additional quotas for equestrian athletes in time for Chung’s application, that the admissions chief ordered evaluators to select the student who would bring a gold medal to the interview and that the school allowed Chung to bring hers in, which violated school policies.

The counsel will also check whether Ewha had Chung in mind when it changed its attendance rules early this year by allowing absent students to gain attendance scores if they submit documents proving they took part in an international competition.

The first-ever raid on Ewha was on Nov. 22, before the independent counsel began its investigation, when prosecutors searched for similar pieces of evidence.

Ewha won eight out of nine initiatives with the Ministry of Education this year that amount to 17.8 billion won, leading the counsel to wonder whether the school was given an advantage in the open bids. Nearly half of private universities in Korea failed to win any ministry project.

On Tuesday, the independent counsel requested that Interpol add Chung to its list of most wanted fugitives, the most aggressive measure yet in its effort to track her down.

Last week, the team formally requested assistance from German prosecutors and asked Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to start procedures revoking her passport, but nothing has led to tangible results so far.

Meanwhile, the counsel requested a pre-trial detention warrant on Thursday for Moon Hyung-pyo, former minister of health and welfare who currently serves as CEO and president of the National Pension Service, on charges that he coerced the pension fund to approve the controversial merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries last year while serving as health minister.

It was the first time the counsel sought a detention warrant for anyone in the ongoing probe. A local court will soon decide whether to grant the request.

Mo Chul-min, former presidential senior secretary for education and culture, who now works as the Korean ambassador to France, was summoned Thursday to answer questions about allegations that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism had a blacklist of nearly 10,000 liberal figures in the Korean culture scene.

The list allegedly was written between 2014 and 2015 by the Blue House, and thousands of Korean artists who were on it were excluded from state-funded programs.

The homes of Kim Ki-choon, former presidential chief of staff, and Cho Yoon-sun, minister of culture, were raided Monday.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, HYUN IL-HOON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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