‘It’s actually a system where Choi Sun-sil tells the President what to do’

Posted on : 2016-10-26 16:21 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Former Mir Foundation official says power broker Choi received detailed presidential report almost daily, and led meetings on governance
 a close confidante of President Park Geun-hye
a close confidante of President Park Geun-hye

Behind-the-scenes power broker Choi Sun-sil received and reviewed 30 cm-thick “Presidential report packets” from the Blue House on a nearly daily basis until as recently as this spring, a witness recently claimed.

Choi is also reported to have used the materials to hold behind-the-scenes meetings to discuss all aspects of governance. The claims were made consistently over the course of four interviews - totaling 16 hours in length - conducted with the Hankyoreh from Sep. 7-25 by former Mir Foundation secretary-general and close Choi associate Lee Sung-han.

“Ms. Choi typically met with experts from different areas at her office in Nonhyeon [a neighborhood in Seoul] to discuss the President’s upcoming schedule and national policy issues,” Lee said in the interview.

“She had a number of these kinds of meetings for different topics - it was a kind of advisory meeting for the President,” he added.

On the participants in the meetings, Lee said, “It ranged from as few as two people to as many as five. I attended a few times.”

“The people coming to the meetings changed a bit depending on what kind of meeting it was, but Cha Eun-taek was almost always there, and Ko Young-tae attended often,” he added. Cha is a former advertising director who has become known as “crown prince of the cultural community” since the Park Geun-hye administration took office. Ko, a close confidant of Choi‘s, drew notice when Park was seen carrying a purse he had made.

Lee went on to say Choi always had a “Presidential report packet” measuring around 30 cm thick on her office desk. He also offered the name of the individual responsible for delivering them.

“The packets were usually all the things the Blue House Senior Secretaries had reported to the President. They were brought to the office nearly every evening by Jeong Ho-seong, director of the Blue House Office of the Private Secretary to the President,” he said. Jeong is one of the secretaries known as the “door knocker triumvirate.”

Lee also recalled that Choi “would toss us the materials at the meetings and have us reading them without any real explanation, giving us orders to ‘Do things this way’ or ‘Do things that way.’”

“We would listen to her and draft project plans, and they would be passed back to us later as Blue House documents without so much as a comma changed,” he added.

While explaining this, Lee showed a Hankyoreh reporter a comparison of documents stored as image files on his iPhone, which were published as official Blue House documents after he wrote them. He also showed telephone numbers saved on the device for around 20 Blue House secretaries and senior secretaries, which the Hankyoreh later confirmed to be correct.

Regarding the topics discussed at the meetings, Lee said, “About 10% were related to the Mir and K-Sports Foundations, while the other 90% mostly had to do with government policies like the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which Choi Sun-sil referred to as ’issues of interest to President Park Geun-hye.‘”

“Appointment issues were also discussed at the meetings, and decisions were made on who to make or not make a Cabinet minister,” he added.

“It’s a real break with common perceptions to say this, but it’s actually a system where Choi tells the President to do things this way or that way. There aren’t any issues where the President can decide on her own,” Lee said. “It’s basically only possible once Choi has been asked about and approves everything. Even the Blue House ‘door knocker triumvirate’ are basically all just Choi’s messengers.”

While Lee‘s account seems to defy common sense, the Hankyoreh decided to report it because it is largely consistent with what the newspaper has found over the past two months of reporting, as well as an Oct. 24 segment on the JTBC network claiming Choi had read and revised Park’s speeches in advance.

An image from a video of Choi Sun-sil
An image from a video of Choi Sun-sil

By Kim Eui-kyum and Ryu Yi-geun, staff reporters

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


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