Prose­cu­tors quiz for­mer vice-sports min­is­ter

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Seoul

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.

Pseu­do­nym

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

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