Ousted Korean president’s aide jailed for corruption

Choi Soon-sil receives three-year sentence for soliciting favours for her daughter

Choi Soon-sil arriving at a court in Seoul, South Korea on Friday where she received a three-year jail sentence. Photograph: Park Ji-hye/News1 via Reuters

Choi Soon-sil arriving at a court in Seoul, South Korea on Friday where she received a three-year jail sentence. Photograph: Park Ji-hye/News1 via Reuters

 

Choi Soon-sil, a close friend and confidante of South Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye, has been sentenced to three years in jail for using corrupt means to get her daughter into an elite university.

Ms Choi’s conviction is the first in a wide-reaching influence-peddling scandal which saw millions of angry South Koreans take to the streets to demonstrate against corruption, leading to Ms Park’s impeachment.

The scandal caused ructions among the country’s giant industrial conglomerates, the chaebols, who were accused of buying influence in the presidential Blue House.

Seoul Central District Court found Ms Choi guilty of using her closeness to Ms Park to influence officials at the elite Ewha Womans University to gain entry for her 21-year-old daughter Chung Yoo-ra. She was also found guilty of pressuring the college to give her daughter grades for exams she never took.

Ms Choi “is found to have committed wrongdoing too grave to consider as an act of a loving mother who wants the best for her child,” the court said in a ruling, quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

The prosecution had sought a seven-year prison term for her.

Abuse of authority

Ms Choi still faces a host of other charges, including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud, as well as accusations that she accepted bribes for Ms Park.

She is charged with siphoning off billions of won for projects, including paying for dressage training for her daughter, who represented South Korea in equestrianism at the Asian Games.

Ms Choi is the daughter of Ms Park’s mentor Choi Tae-min, a Rasputin-like leader of a shamanistic cult who died in 1994. The Choi family became close to the jailed former president after the assassination of her mother and then-first lady, Yook Young-soo in 1974. Ms Park’s father, the dictator Park Chung-hee, was killed in 1979.

Ms Park has been impeached and is also on trial, charged with instructing Ms Choi and two presidential aides to collect money for the launch of several foundations, which pressured some of South Korea’s biggest companies, including electronics giant Samsung, to raise cash.

The de-facto head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, is also on trial for his role in the scandal, while Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin is under investigation.

Ewha is Korea’s first educational institute for women and was founded in 1886 by a Methodist missionary. Judges jailed the university’s ex-president Choi Kyung-hee and former head of admissions Namkung Gon for colluding with Ms Choi in the admissions fraud.

Ms Chung (21) was arrested in Denmark earlier this year and extradited to South Korea, but she is not currently in detention. She has previously said she didn’t even know what her major was and just did what her mother told her to do.