K-pop di­rec­tor charged in Korean scan­dal

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

Photo: EPA

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.

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