Key figures in Choi scandal probed

The special investigation team on Monday raided homes and offices of those linked to the corruption and influence-peddling scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidante, including Park’s former right-hand man and incumbent culture minister.

The simultaneous raids — led by independent counsel Park Young-soo — targeted 10 places related to the scandal, with the home of former presidential chief-of-staff Kim Ki-choon being one of them.

Kim, 77, is suspected of condoning, or even protecting multiple illegal activities carried out by President Park’s long-time friend Choi Soon-sil. Choi has been indicted for allegedly conspiring with Park and her former aides for crimes such as coercion, embezzlement and abuse of authority.

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President Park Geun-hye’s jailed friend Choi Soon-sil on Monday told a group of lawmakers visiting her at the detention facility that she committed no crimes, denying all allegations surrounding her.

Choi, who is currently detained for trial on allegations that she used her ties to Park to manipulate state affairs, is the central figure in a sweeping cronyism scandal that led to the president’s impeachment earlier this month.

“Choi spent most of the time expressing frustration about the situation she ended up in,” said Rep. Chang Je-won of the governing Saenuri Party, one of members of the parliamentary inquiry committee who interviewed Choi at her detention cell.

The closed-door interview, which lasted more than two hours, took place, when lawmakers visited her room in the detention facility in southern Seoul. Including Choi, former presidential aides involved with the scandal — An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong — was also questioned by the lawmakers.

As the final session of their investigation into the scandal, the parliamentary panel sought to hold a hearing at the facility where Choi and the presidential aides are being held. But none of them appeared, citing that their appearance could affect pending trial and ongoing investigation.

Instead, the lawmakers interviewed them at the detention cell. During the session, Choi denied all the allegations surrounding her, including accusations she extorted money from conglomerates and channeled it to two foundations run by her. She also said she had never conspired with President Park for any crimes nor engaged in any wrongdoing.

The 60-year-old Choi also said she had never met former Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and former Presidential Secretary of Civil Affairs Woo Byung-woo, who were suspected of neglecting their duty and allegedly allowed Choi to meddle in state affairs.

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