December 08, 2016 10:43
The National Assembly on Wednesday questioned several suspects in the massive corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun-hye, but the central figure, her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, dodged the summons.
Instead, lawmakers had to make do with Cha Eun-taek, a flamboyant promo director and drinking buddy of Choi's who came to baffling prominence under Park's rule, including designing a new state-sponsored type of calisthenics that flopped like a beached whale.
There were no massive revelations. Asked whether he thought Choi controlled the president, Cha said, "I wondered what kind of person could behave this way toward the president."
Cha claimed he wrote a report for Choi on "creative culture" and only found out later that the ideas were included in a speech delivered by Park.
"I felt that Choi Soon-sil was almost at the same level as the president," he said.
And Koh Young-tae, who headed one of the dubious foundations Choi established with corporate donations under the Cheong Wad Dae flag, answered the same question by saying, "In 2014, I came to agree with that view to some degree. That's the feeling I got."
And Jung Hyun-sik, another Choi crony who led the K-Sports Foundation, said, "Choi told me to serve as an auditor, and one or two days later [former presidential aide] An Chong-bum called me asking me to take the job."
But former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon flatly denied the he even knew Choi. "You keep asking me if I know her," he complained. "If I'd known her, there would have been telephone call records. Prosecutors can find this out."
Kim said he only met Cha because Park told him to. Cha in turn said Choi told him the chief of staff would call him and the call came and the two met.
Lawmakers said the comments clearly demonstrate that it was Choi who told Park what to do, otherwise he would hardly have come to be seen as the "architect" of her erratic culture policies.
"Choi has been revealed to be the most powerful person in the state," Saenuri Party lawmaker Hwang Young-cheul said. Minjoo Party lawmaker Park Beom-kye agreed. "What we have learned in the hearing today is that Choi wielded more power than the president," he said.
Lawmakers were furious that Choi, An and former presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo, who have been indicted in the scandal, refused to obey the summons, and vowed to toughen penalties for disobeying a National Assembly summons.
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