January 20, 2017 09:41
President Park Geun-hye used a mobile phone in someone else's name, her former aide Jeong Ho-seong told the Constitutional Court on Thursday. While this is nowhere near the worst crime she is being accused of, it is common practice among criminals and punishable by up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of W100 million (US$1=W1,178).
Jeong had one as well. "We didn't use phones registered in our own names because of the risk of our conversations being tapped," Jeong said in Park’s impeachment trial. He added that he paid his own phone bill.
Asked whether Park was aware that the phone was registered to someone else, Jeong said she probably used whatever phone was given her. He did not say who obtained the phone for her but denied officials were told to use them by Park's longtime crony Choi Soon-sil, who is widely seen as a puppeteer behind the presidential office.
Choi herself had around a dozen mobile phones under aliases since Park became president in early 2013, and ex-presidential secretary An Chong-bum and Cheong Wa Dae staffer Lee Young-sun more than one each. That means all key figures in the massive corruption and influence-peddling scandal used illegal phones, like a ring of ticket touts.
Jeong also admitted delivering drafts of Park's speeches to Choi and said, "I was instructed to listen to Choi Soon-sil's opinions and reflect them in the process of drafting speeches."
Park's professional speechwriters have testified to their frustration that their speeches often came back littered with grammatical errors and peculiar turns of phrase. Choi, a woman of little education, apparently had a taste for high-toned nonsense that long baffled observers when it came out of Park's mouth.
Asked whether Choi also received documents about the appointment of key government officials, Jeong said, "Choi and the president discuss many things and she has gained the trust of the president." Jeong allegedly sent 180 Cheong Wa Dae documents to Choi, who held no official post, 47 of them with classified information.
Jeong also admitted telling Choi of scheduled meetings between Park and the heads of major business conglomerates, who then made huge donations to Choi either directly or through two dodgy nonprofits she controlled.
Asked whether Jeong ever refused to pass on Choi's opinions to Park, he said, "I did not ignore Choi's requests." Asked if anyone other than Choi was ever contacted for advice, he said no.
He added that Choi's identity was deliberately kept under wraps. "She was quietly helping the president behind the scenes, and things have ended up this way due to an unbelievable leak," he said ruefully.
Jeong also admitted meeting Choi in the presidential office and that he and An had free access to Park's residence in the Cheong Wa Dae compound. Jeong was one of three aides so privileged who had been faithful retainers since Park went into politics in 1998.
Asked why Park preferred to eat alone in her private residence, Jeong said, "She has a bad stomach and often suffers from indigestion. She needs to eat slowly by herself."
Park's reclusive nature and apparent refusal to communicate with many of her officials have been the focus of considerable attention after it was revealed that even her former secretary for political affairs, Cho Yoon-sun, never had a one-on-one meeting with the president during her time at Cheong Wa Dae.
Joeng, together with An and Choi, is separately on trial for corruption in the Seoul Central District Court.
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