Recordings of Ko reveal new layer of Choi-gate

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Recordings of Ko reveal new layer of Choi-gate

After prosecutors handed over a selection of recorded conversations of Ko Young-tae, former business partner of Choi Soon-sil, and his associates to the Constitutional Court as evidence against Choi and President Park Geun-hye, Choi’s lawyers then had to try to listen to all the conversations.

“We have uncovered some 2,300 recorded conversations of Kim Soo-hyun [former CEO of an advertising company established by Ko], via a former director of Blue K [formerly owned by Ko] in November,” said a prosecution official. “Among these, more than 2,250 are of Kim speaking on his phone from January to July last year, and most concern his conversations with his parents, friends and relatives on matters that do not concern the case.”

“We have handed over 29 files and their transcripts, selecting what we found were important to the court,” the official said. The prosecution said they are evidences for the kind of relationship Choi had with the president and how the Mi-R and K-Sports foundations controlled by Choi were created.

Choi was indicted in November for coercing conglomerates to make massive donations to Park’s pet projects, which were controlled by Choi in collusion with the president. Choi’s lawyers on Monday requested the prosecution to hand over all the recorded files. “The prosecution only handed over a few of the recorded files of an unimportant nature,” said Choi’s lawyer during her trial on Monday. “The transcript the prosecution provided is not enough. We would like to request a copy of all of the some 2,000 recorded conversations of Ko and his associates.”

In one such recorded conversation, Ryu Sang-yeong, former director of the Blue K, asked Kim in May, “Did you know that Choi now set up a company in Germany called Widec [Sports], to create slush funds? We have to get the Blue K involved to get some money out of this deal.” Ko is also recorded in another conversation in February of last year, where he tells Kim, “The best thing to wait for is for all this to blow up so that we can take the remains when they’re all gone.”

The president’s lawyers have argued in court that Ko and his associates used Choi for personal gains and then when Ko fell out with Choi, broke a scandal with what they called “distorted facts” on the president.

Ko had denied this allegation during his testimony at court on Feb. 6.

“If I had wanted to create a scandal, I would have had to influence former presidential aides An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong, coerce conglomerates to pitch in some 30 billion won ($26 million) to Choi’s foundations, and ask for another 20 billion won funding from Widec Sports,” he said. “This is just outright impossible.”

The Constitutional Court said on Monday, “We will play certain sections of the recorded conversations when the witnesses are present and both the defendant and plaintiff will be granted opportunities to question them on the contents.”

BY YOON HO-JIN, KIM POGNEE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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