[Editorial] Ahn Jong-beom’s words show that Pres. Park needs to be investigated

Posted on : 2016-11-03 16:11 KST Modified on : 2016-11-03 16:11 KST
 Nov. 2. (by Kang Chang-kwang
Nov. 2. (by Kang Chang-kwang

Ahn Jong-beom, the former Blue House Senior Secretary to the President for Economic Affairs who is deeply implicated in shady fundraising for the Mir and K-Sports Foundation and in running those foundations, reportedly told public prosecutors on Nov. 2 that he had “received instructions from the president for everything that he had done.” Ahn also told an associate that there were supposedly “direct dealings between Choi Sun-sil and Park Geun-hye,” the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported. Ahn’s testimony suggests that he was only a puppet and a pawn, and that Park and Choi were the movers and shakers.

We expected as much, but this is still shocking. If Ahn‘s words are true, Park colluded with Choi (who had no public office or official status) to commit the crime of exploiting the immense power of the Blue House to extort money from corporations. In a meeting at the Blue House on Oct. 20, Park admitted her involvement when she said she had “asked businesspeople to increase their investment in promoting culture and sports.” At the same time, she denied that their investment had been compulsory, claiming that “the corporations had been of like mind.”

These excuses have already proven false. Corporate sources have already testified to extortion, noting that Ahn had made several phone calls asking for their “cooperation.” Federation of Korean Industries Vice Chairman Lee Seung-cheol initially denied the Blue House’s involvement, but he eventually admitted to the prosecutors that he had gone about fundraising on orders from Ahn. Now even Ahn (the person accused of having strong-armed companies into making contributions) has admitted that he did so on Park’s orders, making clear who was the accessory and who was the culprit in this abuse of public power.

Former People’s Party leader Ahn Cheol-soo calls on President Park Geun-hye to step down during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul
Former People’s Party leader Ahn Cheol-soo calls on President Park Geun-hye to step down during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul

But fundraising was not the only activity in which Park was involved. Lee Sung-han, former secretary-general of the Mir Foundation, told the Hankyoreh about receiving an international call from Ahn this past April, while Park was on a trip to Mexico. During the call, Ahn urged him to step down, noting that the president was grateful for “all the hard work he had done.”

The former secretary-generals of the two foundations said that they often received instructions related to running the foundation from Ahn, who described them as “the president’s wishes” or “items of interest.” In other words, Park was also directing the foundations’ routine appointments and operations. Sources say that Park also frequently expressed an interest in the foundations’ programs. Park’s support of the foundations is what enabled Choi and her associates to embezzle funds and to gain concessions. This leads us to wonder how much Park was aware of.

By this point, there is no way for Park to avoid a criminal investigation. Without hearing the details directly from Park, it would be impossible to get to the bottom of the case or to see justice done. The clause in the South Korean Constitution that prevents criminal charges from being brought against a sitting president offers no excuse. It is right to conclude that an investigation can occur right now, even if charges are postponed until later. The prosecutors must not hesitate to question Park in person. Even better would be for Park herself to ask the prosecutors to start by investigating her.

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

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