New Developments In The Presidential Scandal That Rocked South Korea
As new charges are brought against South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye, the Chairman of Samsung has been named a suspect in a multi-million-dollar tax-evasion case. The latest developments represent the continuation of previous scandals that ultimately saw Park ousted from the South Korean Presidency and the heir of Samsung jailed for over a year.
Earlier this month, The Straits Times reported that additional charges had been brought against the former South Korean President, who is in custody while her corruption trial continues. The Straits Times added: “The latest charge accuses Park of violating electoral laws by secretly aiding and funding campaign preparations for her political allies ahead of a 2016 general election.”
Disobedient Media previously reported on the Presidential scandal that unfolded in South Korea in late 2016. As this author noted, a great deal of the ire the South Korean populace unleashed against former President Park Geun-hye stemmed from her bungling of the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster that resulted in the deaths of over 300 South Korean high school students.
Disobedient Media related that President Park Geun-hye’s whereabouts were unknown during seven crucial hours on the day of the Sewol disaster, and that the mysterious gap in the record was officially investigated the South Korean Parliament. The President’s explanation was eventually dismissed by the court as insufficient. Despite numerous parliamentary hearings, South Korean authorities have been unable to determine Park Geun-hye’s whereabouts on the day of the tragedy.
Speculation ran rampant as to the cause of Park’s inexplicable absence during the disaster. The rumors became so intense that press reports indicate the then-President was forced to deny that she was partaking in a ritual at the time that the ferry sank.
Despite all this, it was not until years after the Sewol disaster that Park’s Presidency finally sunk under the weight of additional allegations of corruption stemming from leaked emails in late 2016. The documents revealed an unusual relationship between Park and her close advisors, principally Choi Soon-sil. Choi is the daughter of a religious figure described in a Wikileaks cable as a Korean “Rasputin,” who was also extremely close to Park before his death.
The New York Times wrote regarding Choi Soon-sil’s father: “Mr. Choi, a shadowy figure with several pseudonyms, was believed by many to have exercised a Rasputin-like power over Ms. Park and to have used it to collect bribes. He died in 1994.” Press outlets including CNN also applied to the moniker to his daughter Choi Soon-sil.
Mysterious religious figures and their influence on leaders of state was not the only issue revealed in the leaks. The files showed that Choi Soon-sil was influence peddling and directing Park on everything from what to wear to editing her speeches. This meant that Choi was also privy to matters of national security that were illegal for her to view without proper vetting. The Straits Times described the relationship between Park and Choi:
“Park is also accused of letting Choi, a daughter of a shady late religious figure with whom Park was close for decades, handle many key state affairs despite Choi having no title or security clearance.”
Park’s misconduct with regard to assistant’s improper use of sensitive material struck some as remarkably similar to the scandal that engulfed Hillary Clinton and her use of private email servers. Like Park, Clinton’s advisors inappropriately received highly classified information. Wikileaks publications also revealed Clinton and DNC efforts to sabotage the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, paralleling recent allegations regarding Park’s illegal campaign interference.
As Disobedient Media previously reported, the string of scandals from the Sewol to the emergence of leaked documents in 2016 resulted in up to 1.5 million South Koreans taking to the streets for weeks of protests that ultimately ended Park’s presidency in 2017 and led to her arrest – as well as corruption charges for Choi Soon-sil.
The scandal embroiled one of South Korea’s largest corporate powers in addition to undermining and eventually capsizing Park’s Presidency. In August last year, media reports indicated that the billionaire Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and heir, Lee Jae-yong, was sentenced to five years in prison for paying bribes worth 8.9 billion won ($7.9 million) Choi Soon-sil in order to win Park’s support for the merger of two Samsung affiliates.
The Wall Street Journal recently noted that Lee Jae-yong was given a suspended sentence through an appeal effort, after serving a year behind bars in relation to the scandal. However, Lee Jae-yong’s release from prison was not the end of legal setbacks for the Samsung dynasty. Business Insider reports that Lee’s father, Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee was recently named as a suspect in a $7.5 million tax evasion case that involved the use of employee bank accounts.
The ultimate fate of South Korea’s former President remains to be seen. Disobedient Media will report on this story as it develops.