The circle is tightening around Chung Yoo-ra (정유라), Choi Soon-Sil’s daughter who was the subject of this blog’s very first post. Korea’s news outlets are reporting that an arrest warrant has been issued for the 20-year old who is currently AWOL in Germany. Why is Chung being hunted down? We reported how she became a lightning rod because of her privileged upbringing and favoritism accorded to her given her association with Choi and Park: her horse training, acceptance to an elite university (Ewha), and the rigged procedures that qualified her for equestrian events and exempted her from attending high school. She is being resented by many Koreans who toil for years to take exams to be accepted to universities. Not only did she bend the rules, she seems to have flaunted doing so.
Chung Yoo-ra's horsemanship wasn't much to speak of: here she placed 8th
Well, Chung’s passport has now been canceled and South Korea’s special prosecutor is requesting that Germany freeze assets belonging to the Choi family. They are specifically asking that Germany extradite her to South Korea or to arrest and deport her, as her passport is no longer valid. However, it is not known where exactly Chung is, although it is suspected she is with the baby she gave birth to in 2015 (the father of the child, who has since broken up with Chung, has returned to South Korea and was interviewed by authorities). Indeed, the special prosecution asked that Chung attend a parliamentary hearing last week. She was nowhere to be found and even Choi’s lawyer , Lee Kyung-Jae, didn’t know where she was: “I don’t know when she will return. She has the freedom to decide [whether to attend the hearing or not].” By virtue of her no show, she is now accused of another serious charge, obstruction of justice.
Chung Yoo-Ra kept horsing around in school and played hooky yet was accepted to Ehwa. Youtube screen capture.
We need to keep in mind the larger crime which Choi has been accused of: she set up several hundred shell companies and bank accounts under assumed names in Europe to transfer funds from the 2 foundations she controlled in Korea: (1) K-Sports and (2) Mir. The funds were diverted for personal use. For example, Choi received sponsorship money from Samsung with which she bought horses and paid training expenses. Choi laundered the money through her shell companies and bank accounts.
In return for Samsung’s sponsorship, Choi directed President Park’s office to approve a merger between Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries. These are both Samsung subsidiaries and the merger was subject to the approval of shareholders. A shareholder whose approval was crucial was the National Pension Service (NPS), Korea’s largest pension fund. It is believed that Park’s office pressured the NPS to support the merger to return the favor to Samsung. In July 2015, Samsung narrowly won the shareholder vote and the transaction was consummated. Samsung’s payments to Choi, in other words, had a quid pro quo — a form of bribery that has been rather rampant in Korean history between the sitting government and some of the largest conglomerates (“chaebols”).
K-Sports & Mir: Choi used these 2 foundations to seek donations from 'chaebols', which she then diverted to Germany for her family's personal use
This is an example of the complexities surrounding the Choi gate. Most Koreans and Westerners are not aware of the nitty-gritty of all the accusations. Therefore, keeping track of the big picture is important. Choi directed government officials to act in ways to profit from Park’s office. Park was a co-conspirator and co-actor in all this – she was a willing participant and is considered part of Choi’s family, ever since her life has been intertwined with Choi Tae-Min (since her mom’s assassination in 1974) and with Choi Soon-Sil (since the elder’s Choi’s death in 1994).
But here’s an even bigger issue: Choi’s hidden assets are estimated at about $700-$900 million. How did she amass this fortune? She could not have accumulated this much moolah through her foundations. It is also clear that this vast sum could not have been inherited from her father, Choi Tae-Min. Some people have made an educated guess as to where this fortune may have come from and this will be the subject of our next post. Here’s one hint — Park Geun-Hye’s old man and the father of modern Korean, the late President Park Chung-Hee is somehow involved. It has not been proven but there is a very convincing case to be made that most of the fortune may have come from the late strongman.