Choi Soon-sil was once again issued a warrant and taken to the special prosecutor.  However, she is still refusing to answer any questions.  This has gone on for some time and people are beginning to lose patience.   Hecklers are now gathering in front of the special prosecutor’s office in Gangnam to taunt and scream at Choi.  Some reporters have begun to approach Choi aggressively, forcing her guards to fend them off using force.  High drama continues in Gangnam, where curiosity-seekers are showing up to witness the spectacle of Choi being hauled to the prosecutor.

The van transporting Choi is no longer letting her off at the curb — instead, the van is driving all the way in to avoid the type of scene she caused on January 25th, when Choi started screaming at reporters.  As Choi’s van enters the driveway, several demonstrators holding scruffy posters greet her.  One protester had to be removed as she started blocking the driveway.  One particularly loud protester is Hong  Jeong-sik (홍정식) from a group called Hwal-bin Dan (활빈단).  Even though Hong’s face is blurred to prevent identification, he cannot be mistaken for anyone else as his booming voice drowns out anyone near him.

Hecklers positioning themselves strategically to taunt Choi as her van enters the driveway. YT screen linked to source.

Hong’s placard reads:  “Weed out special treatment and special privileges, kick out all sycophants and house servants that have ruined this country! Lock them all up!” He can be heard yelling, “Today is President Park Geun-hye’s birthday.  Ask Choi Soon-sil what birthday present she gave Park.”  President Park’s birthday is indeed February 2nd.

As soon as Choi’s van appears, Hong charges at it cussing, “Hey, Choi Soon-sil. You bitch, you’re no better than a dog!” Security guards have to be deployed to stop him.  He taunts Choi, “Hey,  Choi Soon-sil, did you eat honey(꿀 먹었냐?)”  “Did you eat honey,” refers to a Korean proverb about a mute husband who ate an entire jar of honey (“꿀먹은 벙어리”) and started experiencing severe abdominal pain.  When his wife returned home and asked him what’s wrong, he pointed to the honey jar.  The wife thought that’s what he wanted, so she started preparing honey water for him.  [Honey water is made by mixing honey with water and is still considered a sort of homeopathic remedy for all kinds of ailments in Korea.  It is thought to be especially effective in recovering from hangovers(숙취해소).]

So the phrase literally translates to, “Are you mute?  Can’t you talk?  Do you have a speech impediment?” It is frequently used when someone has clear knowledge but refuses to say anything.  For example, a reporters asks a recently-divorced celebrity what went wrong in his marriage.  The celebrity refuses to say anything which can only cause bad PR — in that case, he may be described as “a mute who ate a jar of honey.”  This is exactly what happens when Korean rapper-songwriter Eun Ji-won (은지원) is asked, “How long have you been single?  Are you really divorced?”  As you can see, he is taken aback [0:45] by the emcee’s extraordinary rudeness and is described as “being mute after having eaten honey (꿀먹은 벙어리).”

Here, of course, Hong Jeong-sik is referring to Choi Soon-sil’s attempt to stall the investigation by refusing to say anything.  The van passes Hong but he can still be heard yelling in the background, “Do you think the special prosecutor is a joke?  What gives you the right, what is it that have you done so well?”

But who exactly is Hong Jeong-sik?  He is the head of a group (Hwalbin Dan) that calls itself “modern-day Hong Gil-dong” — Hong Gil-dong is a Robin Hood-like figure in Korean folklore that actually existed in the 1400’s.  However, his exploits have been later embellished in novels, cartoons and TV dramas to turn him into a populist hero with supernatural powers.  He is frequently depicted as waging fierce battle against the ruling aristocratic class  of the Joseon period.

Cartoon versions of the legend of Hong Gil-dong abound.

That’s why Hong Jeong-sik fashions himself as Hong Gil-dong, whose surname he also shares.  But Hong Jeong-sik in his own right is also a celebrity and familiar figure in protest venues in Seoul.  We have seen him plenty of times before.  Hong was actually a fringe candidate in the 2014 mayoral election, running against incumbent Park Won-soon.  Hong actually happens to be conservative and regularly appears in demonstrations that target what he calls “pro-North Korean (종북)” forces.

Choi’s van has already gone up the driveway.  But since Hong is so loud, he can still be heard by Choi and her guards.  He stands on top of a pedestal and starts to taunt Choi from there.

Hong taunts Choi:"Hey, Choi Soon-sil, have you eaten honey?"

“Hey, Choi Soon-sil, are you a human being?  The country is in ruins because you.  Even Ban Ki-moon had to drop out!”  Then a reporter asks him, “What do you think about today being President Park’s birthday?” [0:15]  Hong answers, “Well, she’ll be feeling pretty sad and sorry for herself, that’s what I can tell you.”  [0:16]  Hong refocuses on Choi and starts screaming again, “Hey, Choi Soon-sil, you are a blowhard.  Have you eaten honey?  I hear you’re demanding special treatment while in detention.  I’ll show up there and bust the door down!  I hear you’re ordering people around there … those correction officers are calling you ‘big sister.'”

By this time, Choi was being let out of the van.  But she wasn’t quite safe there either as even reporters became particularly aggressive.  One reporter with what looks like a microphone case approaches Choi and demands, “Why are you continuing to remain silent?”

Taking a tumble is an occupational hazard for on-the-scene reporters. YT screen linked to source.

He is pushed back by Choi’s female guards but he keeps approaching Choi aggressively and asks, “What part of the special prosecutor’s investigation are you not happy with …”  He then trips and drags 2 guards and Choi with him [0:34].

As this reporter takes a tumble, Choi tries to keep her balance.  While this is happening, someone offers Choi a helping hand  to steady herself.

Another reporter sneaks in to see if she can make Choi talk. YT screen linked to source.

She is actually another reporters who uses the occasion to squeeze in and ask, “Ms. Choi, how is your daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, doing in Denmark?”

One reporter falls by the wayside and another shows up to take his place.  As we pointed out on January 7th,  competing for the latest scoop on the most followed news story in Korean history can get pretty fierce.  This is the dog-eat-dog world of covering Choi Soon-sil in South Korea.

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