Prosecutors quiz former vice-sports minister
South Korean prosecutors questioned a former vicesports minister onWednesday as their probe into the corruption scandal engulfing President ParkGeun-hye spreads to preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Park is under pressure over her shadowy confidant Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of using her personal ties with the president to coerce major companies to donate millions of dollars to nonprofit foundations Choi then used for personal gain.
Kim Chong, who served as vice-sports minister for three years until last month, is accused of helping Choi’s foundations win lucrative state contracts.
He was mobbed by reporters as he walked into the Seoul prosecutors’ office onWednesday, TV footage showed.
He is also accused of pressuring a former head of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games organizing committee to resign after he refused to award a contract to a company linked with Choi.
Cho Yang-ho, the chairman of Korean Air, took the helm at the committee in 2014 when it was struggling with construction delays and funding problems.
He is widely credited with turning the situation around and bringing in big-name sponsorship — but abruptly resigned inMay.
He has said media reports he was forced out by Kim for refusing to help Choi are “90 percent correct”.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether Kim played a role in a recent decision by his ministry to provide a cash subsidy to a winter sports foundation run by Choi’s niece, who is widely seen as her key aide.
As the probe widens, investigators have grilled the heads of some of the country’s major companies including Samsung and Hyundai, and on Tuesday raided the offices of Samsung’s advertising unit.
Prosecutors are also seeking to quiz Park over her role in the scandal — which could make her the first South Korean president to be questioned while in office.
Meanwhile, a starlet of a TV soap became the most talkedabout celebrity in the country on Wednesday when a TV channel revealed President Park once used her name as a pseudonym at a beauty and detox clinic, a distraction from the scandal engulfing her administration.
Gil Ra-im, the heroine of the smash hit drama Secret Garden, became the object of parody following the report that Park used her name at the Chaum beauty and anti-aging clinic in an upscale Seoul neighborhood.
Cable channel JTBC said late on Tuesday that Park frequented the clinic, even after she took office in 2013. Rhie Dong-mo, president of Chaum, confirmed that Park used the pseudonymGil Ra-im in 2011.
Chaum, where the enrollment fee is $130,000, offers anti-aging, detox, food therapy and spa services, according to its website.
The presidential BlueHouse declined to comment.
Secret Garden, about the life of a struggling stuntwoman, Gil Ra-im, who falls in love with a rich department store owner, has aired in at least 14 countries including China, Japan and as far away as Argentina.
enrollment fee for a beauty and detox clinic that the president frequented with a pseudonym