Secretary to Park’s brother dies, leaving questions behind

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Secretary to Park’s brother dies, leaving questions behind

Refuting allegations that the personal secretary of Park Ji-man, brother to President Park Geun-hye, may have been murdered, police concluded on Monday that the secretary died of a heart attack on Friday.

“Police suspect the man died of a heart attack,” said Lee Chul-sung, commissioner general for the National Police Agency during a press conference on Monday.

Lee added, “The secretary [surnamed Joo] was found on the floor of his house, holding a towel, likely after a shower. Police have concluded that there is no other irregularity to the death.”

Joo was found dead in his house in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, on Friday. His relatives found him first and called 911.

“Joo used to suffer from high blood pressure,” Lee said. “And there is no sign of forced entry to the house. Joo spoke on the phone with his wife before his death, and had cancelled a meeting with colleagues the day before due to feeling under the weather.

"According to the files, photos and various records that we have collected, I have no doubt the man died of natural causes.”

“Remember that this is not the first death in the family [of Park],” said Rep. Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, in a Supreme Council meeting on Monday.

“There was the death of Park’s nephews. Now, with the death of Park Ji-man’s secretary, something uncanny is going on here, as these deaths seem to happen only when there is an important trial or investigation going on.” Joo was a personal secretary to Park Ji-man for 18 years.

In 2011, Park Yong-cheol, 49 at the time and nephew to Park Geun-hye, was found dead on a trail near Mount Bukhan in central Seoul.

Just a few kilometers away, the body of Park Yong-su, 51, another nephew, was found hanging from a tree.

Park Yong-cheol, shortly before his death, had stood witness in a case that involved Park Ji-man, who at the time was accused of having ordered Park Yong-cheol to assassinate Shin Dong-wook, Park Geun-hye’s brother-in-law.

Park Ji-man allegedly had financial disputes with his family members over the Yookyoung Foundation, a charity started by Park Ji-man’s mother, which linked him to the case. The case closed in October 2011.

“An autopsy on Joo’s body, as well as a thorough combing of the calls and text messages Joo made and received in the past three months, is in order,” Shin posted on his Twitter account on Monday.

“If it turns out that Joo either committed suicide or was murdered, then I think his case 99 percent has to do with my case years ago.”

BY KIM MIN-WOOK, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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