PPP breathes sigh of relief after acquittal of Yoon’s mother-in-law

Posted on : 2022-01-26 17:41 KST Modified on : 2022-01-26 17:41 KST
The Seoul High Court overturned a conviction that included a 3-year prison sentence
Yoon Suk-yeol, the People Power Party’s presidential nominee, speaks at a campaign event at the party’s headquarters in Seoul’s Yeouido neighborhood on Tuesday morning. (pool photo)
Yoon Suk-yeol, the People Power Party’s presidential nominee, speaks at a campaign event at the party’s headquarters in Seoul’s Yeouido neighborhood on Tuesday morning. (pool photo)

On Tuesday, a South Korean appeals court acquitted the mother-in-law of Yoon Suk-yeol on charges of defrauding the government during the establishment of a healthcare facility. The acquittal of the woman, only identified by her surname Choi, clears away much of the baggage weighing down Yoon, who is running for president on the conservative People Power Party (PPP) ticket. Members of the PPP expressed relief that some of the liabilities surrounding Yoon have been dealt with before the extended holiday for the Lunar New Year.

Yoon Gang-yeol, a senior judge at the Seoul High Court, cleared Choi on charges of violating the Medical Service Act and committing fraud under the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Economic Crimes. That overturned a conviction in a district court that had sentenced Choi to three years in prison.

“The evidence submitted by the prosecutors was inadequate to determine that the defendant was involved in establishing or operating the long-term care facility or that she had deceived the National Health Insurance Service,” the court said.

Choi had been taken into legal custody in July last year following her conviction in the first instance of the trial.

“Choi and her business partner, none of whom were doctors, conspired to set up a hospital that was designed to look like a nonprofit but was actually for-profit and used it to defraud the National Health Insurance Service. That is a crime of considerable gravity considering that it undermines the financial stability of the National Health Insurance Service and increases the financial burden on enrollees in that program,” the district court said in its verdict.

But that ruling was overruled by the appeals court, which noted that Choi hadn’t signed a contract to enter into a business partnership.

There’s evident relief in the PPP that some of the liabilities linked to Yoon’s wife — which have been dogging his campaign — have been dispelled before the Lunar New Year.

“The acquittal in his mother-in-law’s case, which had been part of [Yoon’s] ‘spouse risk’ with barely 40 days until the presidential election, is a stroke of good fortune. But we’re not planning to offer an official statement — that would be rather awkward,” a senior member of the party told the Hankyoreh in a telephone interview.

“This allows Yoon to put his mother-in-law’s legal issues behind him ahead of the presidential election. Not even the ruling party is likely to badger him about this now that the courts have had their say,” another veteran lawmaker in the PPP told the Hankyoreh.

Since one of the cases against Yoon’s mother-in-law has been resolved, PPP members are hopeful that Yoon’s standing in the polls will continue to rise.

Yoon himself didn’t offer an official statement about the ruling.

After the court’s ruling last July, Yoon had said, “It’s my belief that no one stands beyond the reach of the law.” But in a debate in December, he said, “It’s almost unheard of to dredge up charges that were dropped five years ago and to indict someone simply because one person changed their testimony.” He also said he agreed with the suggestion that the prosecutors had gone too far by reopening the investigation and that this was an attempt to ruin his reputation.

But Choi, Yoon’s mother-in-law, is also on trial for forging private documents. She stands accused of forging bank statements that claimed she had 34.96 billion won (US$29 million) in a bank account when she bought land in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, from April to October 2013.

Choi is currently appealing after she was convicted on that charge in December and sentenced to a year in prison.

By Jang Na-rye, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles