South Korea Investigators Seize Mobile Phones from Aides of Park Geun Hye

Michael Song, Nov. 6, 2016, 9:15 p.m.

Investigators confiscated four mobile phones during a raid on Oct. 29 on the home of President Park Geun-hye's long-term aide An Chong-bum, who was apparently taken by surprise. At the same time, another group of investigators raided the home of Jeong Ho-seong, the former presidential secretary for private presidential affairs, and confiscated his phone.

An is accused of pressuring businesses in his capacity as presidential secretary for policy coordination to donate billions of won to two dubious non-profit foundations controlled by Park's friend Choi Soon-sil.

His phones are said to contain text messages he exchanged with executives at major conglomerates on July 24, prior to the establishment of the Mir Foundation, as well as messages he exchanged with Cheong Wa Dae about presidential protocol.

They show that Park personally invited the heads of 17 conglomerates, including Samsung, Hyundai, LG and Lotte, to Cheong Wa Dae for lunch, where she told them about her intention to publicize Korean culture through the foundation. They also suggest that Park met separately with some of the executives after lunch.

The evidence will be crucial in tying Park to the scandal and investigating her own close ties to big business, and could lay her open to charges of bribery or abuse of authority.

Park is suspected of giving Choi Soon-sil, a friend of 40 years with no official post, unheard-of access to government business, and easing her friend's path to fabulous wealth.

On Jeong's phone, prosecutors discovered audio recordings of phone calls with Choi.

After the president's speeches and other classified documents were found on a tablet PC he had allegedly given to Choi, Jeong denied any knowledge or involvement, but when prosecutors confronted him with the phone he immediately admitted the charges.

An and Jeong were both formally arrested early Sunday morning. On Saturday, An told a judge who was reviewing his arrest warrant that he would take responsibility for improperly assisting the president.

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