Through the scandal involving Mir and K-Sports foundations, the mastermind of this elaborate plan was brought to light: Soon-sil Choi. However, the entire Choi family has come to be involved at an unbelievable level as this large scale scandal came to reveal flaws in President Park’s governing. As Ahn and Choi were both involved in pressuring various companies to donate to the two foundations, there was speculation about a connection between President Park and Choi. This suspicion was confirmed when JTBC, a news agency, reported that Choi’s favorite activity was editing speeches, referring to President Park’s speeches.
Soon after, the JTBC media team analyzed Choi’s tablet PC, revealing approximately 200 files. The analysis of the contents of the PC not only revealed Choi’s possession of 44 files related to President Park’s speeches, but also revealed possession of classified files from the Blue House. The fact that these files, which are not shared even in the Blue House for security measures, were found in Choi’s possession is very alarming as these speeches sometimes outline government policies that are to be taken. However, the contents of the tablet PC revealed even more shocking contents such as files named “clothes1_1”. President Park is known to have worn 124 different outfits in the first two years of her presidency and a close associate of Choi stated that Ms. Choi was responsible for choosing President Park’s outfit. Other news sources have stated that Ms. Choi has been seen to enter the Blue House without any identity confirmation, raising alarming concerns about the ties between Choi and President Park.
Furthermore, suspicions have been raised regarding the admittance of Choi’s daughter, Yoo-ra Chung, into Ewha Womans University. Yoo-ra Chung, an equestrian with five gold medals from various competitions, was admitted into Ewha Womans University in 2015 through a special athlete admissions process.
However, there were several suspicious aspects of her admittance. Chung received four of her five gold horse-riding medals in 2008. However, it was revealed that she competed in these competitions as the only participant in the elementary school division. Furthermore, Chung’s participation in these competitions coincided with the change in competition regulations governed by the Korea Equestrian Federation that changed to recognize a competitor division if there was at least one person in that competitor division.
Chung’s suspicious admission is but the beginning. Chung’s reported treatment at the university is alarming. A report was submitted to a member of the assembly of the Minjoo Party of Korea as documentation regarding Chung. This report was written for a three-credit course taken by Chung and was not only filled with plagiarism and incorrect grammar, but also profanity. After seeing this report, the professor was reported to have complimented Chung via email, saying “You are doing well.” The professor was then reported to have helped her fix her report through a private session. Furthermore, after her academic advisor called Chung to issue an expulsion warning due to her nearly nonexistent attendance, her mother, Choi, came to visit the advisor. Subsequently, it was revealed that Choi barged into the professor’s office, yelling that she would sue him and demanded to meet the dean of the school. The academic advisor was transferred from his position soon after.
Yet, these two individuals are not the only people from Choi’s family that may be involved in this political scandal. Choi’s father Tae-min Choi is known to have influenced President Park from a young age. Tae-min Choi was a religious character who set up the “Church of the Eternal Life”, and appeared before President Park soon after her mother’s death. It is reported that he gained President Park’s trust by sending a letter to her, offering comfort by saying that her assassinated mother asked him to help her in his dreams and that “[she] can always hear [her] mother’s voice through me”.
Mr. Choi continued to have a profound influence on President Park. In 1983, President Park, who was a normal civilian at that time, became the chairperson of the Yookyoung Foundation, which operates the Korean Children’s Center. However, according to an article in October 1987, the activities of the center were first reported to Mr. Choi before it could be reviewed by President Park. President Park denied these claims in 1990 when she stated “saying [she was] manipulated is an insult to [her] character.”
These shocking revelations on the influence Ms. Choi’s family had on both President Park’s personal and political life are disturbing. This brings the spotlight onto the investigations on the Choi family and President Park, which will be key in revealing the effectiveness of South Korea’s legal system. As these disturbing suspicions rampage in Korea, one cannot help but think that these suspicions are but the tip of the iceberg.