Without a pass, Choi Sun-sil routinely sailed through Blue House security

Posted on : 2016-11-01 11:54 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Frequent visits apparently breached security protocol, and may have led to sudden replacement of security officials
Guards at the main entrance to the Blue House
Guards at the main entrance to the Blue House

Sources say that Choi Sun-sil was frequently driven to the Blue House by Lee Yeong-seon, a government official assigned to the Blue House. Choi is a close friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye who is accused of having exploited her relationship with Park. Lee is the person who wiped off Choi’s mobile phone on his shirt before returning it to Choi when she was choosing Park’s outfits in her secret dressing room in Gangnam.

According to multiple sources that the Hankyoreh contacted on Oct. 31, Choi passed through the main gate at the Blue House in the back seat of a car driven by Lee without being questioned or searched. These visits to the Blue House continued from early in Park’s presidency in 2013 until recently, the Hankyoreh confirmed.

“Lee drove a Blue House official vehicle to Choi’s house or office, picked her up and took her to the Blue House. When Choi left the Blue House, Lee would also drive her to her destination,” said a source at the Blue House. A video from the inside of Choi’s dressing room shown on TV Chosun dated to Nov. 3, 2014, suggests that Choi brought Park’s clothing to the Blue House in Lee’s car on that day, too.

“It’s impossible to know exactly how many times [Choi] visited the Blue House, as though the front gate has security at all hours, the guards are on shifts. But the one thing that‘s clear is that Choi was there countless times,” the source said.

“The entrance that Choi used is what the security staff refer to as Entrance No. 11. This is not the Yeonpung Entrance on the east or the Sihwa Gate on the west that are used by ordinary visitors to the Blue House, but the main entrance,” another source said.

“The main entrance is the one used by government ministers and similarly ranked officials during cabinet meetings. Even ministers are not allowed to pass through until they show a security pass and their faces are compared with the photo. But Choi was allowed to freely pass through this entrance without even presenting a pass.”

When a civilian needs to pass through security without a pass, Blue House security regulations state that Blue House secretaries must first contact the security office and that the security office must then inform Security Detachment No. 101, which stands guard outside the Blue House. But these procedures were all omitted in the case of Choi. This led to several incidents early during Park’s presidency when police officers belonging to Security Detachment No. 1 at the Blue House main entrance complained that they hadn‘t been contacted by the security and tried to confirm her identity.

“During the resulting argument, Choi Sun-sil flew off the handle, and as a result the people in charge of security were abruptly demoted in early 2014,” said a source at the Blue House.

The Hankyoreh confirmed that two senior police officials who were responsible for Blue House security at the time (Won Gyeong-hwan, a superintendent general in the security office, and Kim Seok-yeol, a senior superintendent with Security Detachment No. 101 with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency) were suddenly replaced in early 2014. While Won and Kim’s positions would ordinarily have guaranteed them a promotion in their next assignment, they were instead moved to either similar or less important positions.

When Blue House Chief of Staff Lee Won-jong attended the National Assembly’s parliamentary audit on Oct. 21, he said that he had “neither seen nor heard” anything about Choi Sun-sil visiting the Blue House and that, as far as he knew, she had not done so.

“Security cameras are installed not only at the main entrance to the Blue House but at all entrances, and those cameras are running 24 hours a day. This can be easily confirmed if the prosecutors seize and analyze [the footage],” said sources at the Blue House.

By Kim Eui-kyum, senior staff writer

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


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