October 28, 2016 10:45
The woman at the center of a corruption scandal engulfing President Park Geun-hye has denied meddling in government or enriching herself by trading on her influence.
Tracked down in Germany by the Segye Ilbo newspaper, Choi Soon-sil would only admit that she edited some of Park's speeches and seemed to make veiled threats to the press.
"As I know well what is in Park's mind and heart, I helped her find the right words to express herself," Choi told the daily. "I did not know the materials were confidential."
Choi vehemently denied that she influenced the appointment of key government officials, or solicited donations from conglomerates for the Mir and K-Sports foundations, which prosecutors suspect were mere vehicles for the enrichment of her family.
Asked about testimony that she received daily reports from the presidential office and reviewed them, Choi said she had "no recollections" of having done so and is "no longer sure what is true or not."
Choi also denied having ties to Cheong Wa Dae officials in whose appointment she and her former husband Chung Yun-hoi were said to have had a hand. "I have lived an isolated life," she said. "Why are you trying to associate me with them?"
Choi claimed she was in no physical condition to travel and face the music in Korea. "I am suffering from a nervous breakdown and I have been diagnosed with heart issues," she said. "If I recover, I will ask for forgiveness, and will accept punishment if I did anything wrong."
Besides the ongoing corruption probe that saw prosecutors raid the foundations early this week and cart off huge amounts of documents, Choi could face charges of leaking confidential information and impeding the execution of official duties.
Choi's admission closely echoes a brief apology Park made on Tuesday, in which she only admitted that Choi edited "some materials," suggesting that the two women are coordinating their line of defense.
The fact that Choi spoke exclusively to the Segye Ilbo, which is owned by the powerful Unification Church better known as the Moonies, suggests fresh layers of entanglement.
Denying any involvement by the Moonies in interviewing her, the reporter said, "I was able to reach Choi through an acquaintance from my days when I was studying in Germany."
The Segye Ilbo editors also issued a statement defending the interview, which they said was conducted in "tense circumstances following many attempts." The daily said it decided to tell her side of the story, since it is the duty of the news media to satisfy the public's right to a balanced perspective.
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