January 19, 2017 09:35
Phone records show that President Park Geun-hye's longtime crony Choi Soon-sil was in touch with Cheong Wa Dae three times a day till at least the end of 2014.
Prosecutors presented the records in the criminal trial of ex-Cheong Wa Dae secretary Jeong Ho-seong on Wednesday. They show that Jeong and Choi were in touch via mobile phone 2,092 times from early 2013, when Park became president, until late 2014.
Contacts included 1,197 text messages and 895 phone calls. Jeong sent Choi 237 text messages alerting her that he had uploaded confidential Cheong Wa Dae documents including Park's speeches on a shared e-mail account. Choi would then revise them and send a text to Jeong saying, "Have a look."
Prosecutors also quoted testimony from former presidential speech writer Cho In-geun, who found that his professional work often ended up littered with grammatical errors and peculiar turns of phrase, which he objected to. Park had long baffled observers with the opaque and convoluted nature of her speeches.
"I admit that I delivered documents to Choi and made revisions to them according to Choi's opinions," Jeong told the Seoul Central District Court. Park "told me to confirm with Choi and reflect her opinions in the documents."
He testified that Park instructed him at the start of her presidential term to listen to Choi's opinions on the selection of several ministers and vice ministers.
"Park had gotten help from Choi since her father's assassination and had infinite trust in her," he told the court.
The two women became close after Choi's father, a crackpot cult leader, claimed in 1974 that Park's recently assassinated mother had appeared to him in a dream and told him to look after Park. Her father, strongman Park Chung-hee, was in turn assassinated five years later, and she appears to have been leaning heavily on the Choi family ever since.
But Jeong also tried to defend Park, claiming she did not instruct him specifically which documents to send. "The president only wanted to double-check to run the country better," he said. "I also did my best to assist her in her job. I feel heartbroken to hear the accusation that I colluded with her in a crime."
Prosecutors said they will present the contents of recorded phone calls found in Jeong's phone in the next session on Feb. 16.
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