Yoo-ra faces more queries, denies legal responsibilityProsecutors on Thursday grilled Chung Yoo-ra for the second consecutive day since her extradition to Korea for various allegations involving her mother, Choi Soon-sil, former President Park Geun-hye’s confidante.
Yet legal experts believe that, despite her seemingly unfiltered remarks, the 20-year-old Chung, mother of a 2-year-old boy, has been carefully coached by her attorney to evade criminal charges and distance herself from allegations against her mother.
Following her extradition from Denmark to Korea on Wednesday, Chung has been undergoing questioning by prosecutors over receiving undue favors in admission to and academic affairs at Ewha Womans University, as well as the generous patronage she received from Samsung Electronics for her equestrian training.
Chung underwent eight hours at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho District, southern Seoul, between 5:30 p.m. to 1:40 a.m., immediately after her repatriation on Wednesday. She spent the night at the Nambu Detention Center, where her mother is detained.
In her brief meeting with reporters at the Incheon International Airport Wednesday, Chung apologized for a controversial posting on Facebook she made in December 2014, in which she wrote: “Blame your own parents if they don’t have the ability… Money is also a form of ability.”
She apologized for this, saying it must have been “written with a young mentality, and I genuinely am sorry.” She also accepted the cancelation of her admission to Ewha, saying this was only expected since she never attended class and did not know her own major.
However, she was evasive regarding Samsung’s support for her equestrian training and her special treatment at Ewha, generally responding she had no knowledge of these things.
“I don’t know anything about what happened between my mother and former President Park,” Chung said, but admitted she felt personally that it was “unfair.”
Attorney Shin Il-su, a former senior judge, said Chung’s remarks “reek of advice from her legal counsel, accepting moral blame while evading issues that could lead to punishment, such as Ewha’s special treatment or Samsung’s support.”
“It was 100 percent clear that she practiced a lot beforehand,” said Kim Han-kyu, former president of the Seoul Bar Association. “She did not make any mistakes that would be damaging to her. Chung seemed repetitive but she only had one message: ‘I am unrelated. I am not guilty.’”
Choi Jin-nyoung, a former spokesman of the Korean Bar Association, said Chung’s remarks that she did not even know her own major at Ewha and was told by her mother she was one of six equestrian athletes to receive support from Samsung can be interpreted as “denying all charges.” He added, “In legal terms, Chung’s remarks are a declaration that she did not intentionally obstruct duties at Ewha and twas not aware of committing any unlawful acts regarding Samsung.”
Likewise, Sohn Dong-kwon, professor at Konkuk University Law School, said, “For Chung to be criminally charged as an accomplice in the Ewha or bribery allegations, there will need to be evidence that she was aware and took part in it.”
Prosecutors were expected to issue an arrest warrant for Chung no later than 4:08 a.m. Friday. Chung was arrested in-flight early Wednesday with a pre-issued warrant aboard a Korean Air flight to Incheon, which provided prosecutors 48 hours to issue an arrest warrant. Chung was arrested in Aalborg, Denmark, in early January for illegally staying in the country and detained for five months before her extradition to Seoul.
On Wednesday, a special prosecution team demanded a seven-year jail sentence for Choi over charges involving her exerting influence at Ewha to ensure favors for her daughter at the Seoul Central District Court .
Choi tearfully implored the public in court, “Please forgive Yoo-ra and grant benevolence so that she can live the rest of her life uprightly.”
BY HYUN IL-HOON, SONG SEUNG-HWAN AND SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]