K-pop director charged in Korean scandal
A PROMINENT K-pop music video director was charged yesterday as part of the corruption scandal rocking South Korea and engulfing President Park Geun-hye.
Cha Eun-taek, who has worked with “Gangnam Style” star Psy and boy band megastars Big Bang, used his ties to a secret confidante of Ms Park to win lucrative projects from state agencies and private firms, prosecutors say.
That confidante -– Choi Soon-sil – has been labelled Ms Park’s eminence grise, a shadowy figure who is believed to have leveraged her close relationship with the president to extract more than US$60 million from top firms, including Samsung.
Prosecutors say Ms Park herself ordered her former economic adviser to help Mr Cha pressure officials and private firms so that he would win contracts.
Mr Cha, 46, has been charged with abuse of power, coercion and embezzlement and becomes the latest public figure to be embroiled in the snowballing scandal.
Ms Choi, 60, is accused of meddling in a wide range of state affairs including the country’s preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Prosecutors have formally charged her with abuse of power and coercion, saying Ms Park was a “co-culprit” who had colluded with Ms Choi to strongarm top firms into giving cash to nonprofit foundations Ms Choi controlled.
Ms Park – now the first South Korean president to become a criminal suspect while in office – has rejected a series of requests from prosecutors to answer their questions.
As a sitting president, Ms Park cannot be charged with a criminal offence except insurrection or treason, but she can be investigated and potentially charged once her term is over next year.
Ms Park is faced with growing public calls to resign and a push by lawmakers to impeach her, with her job approval ratings diving to record lows of 4 percent.
Up to 1.3 million protesters braved sleet and freezing temperatures in Seoul on November 26 to demand she resign.
Participants raised candles, sung and danced while chanting “Arrest Park Geun-hye” and “Throw Park into jail”, with cries from the main rally site reportedly reaching the presidential Blue House some 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles) away.
The figure offered by organisers would make this the largest of a series of huge weekly protests that began a
month ago in the South Korean capital, after an influence-peddling scandal engulfed the president.
“I don’t think Park would step down voluntarily, but we need to raise our voice as much as possible to encourage parliament to push through with its move to impeach her,” Lee Seung-cheol, a 23-year-old student, told AFP.
The largely peaceful rallies – which have been attended by parents and their children, university students and Buddhist monks – are among the biggest seen since the pro-democracy protests of the 1980s.
A poll last week indicates that nine out of 10 South Koreans want Ms Park kicked out of office.
“I came here because I wanted to show my children that it’s the people who own this country, not those in power,” Shim Kyu-il, a 47-year-old company employee, told AFP.
Buddhist monks wearing grey robes recited a sutra while other protestors simulated Ms Park, Ms Choi and Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong being led into prison.
Trucks carried loudspeakers blaring “Park get out now”.
Yang Duk-joon, 53, said he and other farmers had taken a bus from the southern provincial city of Muan to join the protest.
“We’re here to oust Park who ruined this country,” he said, adding the rice price had fallen 40pc this year compared with a year earlier.
If parliament passes the impeachment motion, Ms Park would be suspended from official duties and replaced by the prime minister. The Constitutional Court would need to approve the impeachment. –
South Korean artistic director Cha Eun-taek, a key suspect in the influencepeddling scandal involving a close friend of South Korean President Park Geunhye, is taken into custody by police in Seoul yesterday.