Choi Soon Sil Likely to be Indicted Later Next Week

Erin Yoon, Nov. 8, 2016, 9:13 a.m.

State prosecutors investigating Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of an unfolding presidential scandal, are likely to indict her next week, sources said Tuesday.

Choi, President Park Geun-hye’s friend of 40 years accused of meddling in state affairs and extorting donations from corporations, is under arrest and currently facing two criminal charges -- accomplice to abuse of power and attempted fraud. But she could face more charges, the prosecution said.

“Indictment is not the end of our investigation. She may face additional charges if new evidence presents itself,” a prosecution official told reporters.

A team of 32 prosecutors -- the largest ever for any prosecutorial probe in Korea’s history -- are simultaneously looking into various allegations of Choi’s wrongdoings that span across business, sports, culture and education circles.

As part of the multifaceted investigation, the prosecutors searched the head office of Samsung Electronics on the suspicion that it provided financial support to Choi’s horseback rider daughter in return for business favors.

Choi is also accused of coercing Samsung and other big businesses to donate some tens of billions of won to two nonprofit foundations that she created.

The prosecutors  suspect that the money may have then illegally funneled to Choi.

The presidential confidante is also accused of receiving presidential documents via email -- some containing sensitive information on diplomacy, inter-Korean relations and Park’s personnel appointments.

Jeong Ho-seong, a former Park aide, is under arrest for leaking those documents to Choi, a civilian who has never held public office.

For the information leak, however, Choi is unlikely to be held legally accountable, because the law on the presidential information security penalizes those who leak, not the ones who obtain the leaked data.

The scandal broke last month, when a local TV channel reported to have found over 200 presidential documents -- including presidential speech scripts -- on a discarded computer used by Choi.

President Park, one day after the revealing report, admitted to having sought Choi’s advice on her speeches before delivering them. A flurry of revelations ensued to suggest that Choi’s advice was far-reaching from key state affairs to the president’s wardrobe choices.

Several of Park’s former aides are now under investigation, including Jeong, An Jong-bum and Woo Byung-woo. An and Jeong are in custody.

An, the former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, is accused of pressuring local firms to give donations to the K-Sports and Mir foundations.

Investigators are also stepping up their inquiry into allegations that Choi’s associates interfered with various cultural projects for their personal gain.

Song Sung-gak, the former chief of the state-run Korea Creative Content Agency, was arrested late Monday night on suspicion that he pressured a mid-sized ad company to hand over its shares to a third party.

Song is a close associate of Cha Eun-taek, whom local press said acted like the “crown prince” in the local cultural scene with the president‘s friend Choi on his back. Cha’s professor and uncle were made the culture minister and the senior presidential secretary for culture and education. Cha is currently staying in China. 

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