Choi Soon-sil (C), former South Korean President’s
confidante and photographed here on January 16, 2017, was
sentenced to 20 years in prison
The secret confidant of former South Korean President Park
Geun-hye, at the heart of the corruption scandal that
precipitated her fall, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years of
Choi Soon-sil, 61, is the daughter of a mysterious religious
leader. She was for decades a close friend of Ms. Park to the
point of being nicknamed „Rasputin“ by the media for the
influence it had on the former president.
When the resounding drawer scandal erupted in 2016 in Asia’s
fourth economy, it was conspired by the protesters who were
demanding the head of the president. The case was culminated in
the dismissal of Ms. Park in March 2017.
The Seoul Central District Court found Ms. Choi guilty of
abuse of power, corruption and interference in government
This conviction could augur the fate that will be reserved
for Ms. Park, herself on trial for corruption. Fifteen of the
18 charges on Mr. Choi’s shoulders are similar to the charges
against Ms. Park.
She took advantage of her „old personal ties“ with the
former head of the state to force large groups to pay funds to
foundations under her control, Judge Kim Se-yoon said.
In total, it has accepted 14 billion won (10.5 million
euros) from Samsung, the largest conglomerate in South Korea,
and Lotte, a giant of retail, and has „largely mingled state
affairs, „added the magistrate.
– ‚cruelty‘ –
Ms. Choi had no security or security clearance, which did
not prevent her from accusing her of meddling in political
decisions such as appointing ministers or ambassadors, and
rewriting presidential speeches.
Nicknamed „Rasputin“ by the South Korean media for the
influence she was given on the former president, Choi Soon-Sil,
photographed here on December 19, 2016, was sentenced to 20 years
„Given the extent of the material gains obtained by the
accused, the confusion in public affairs resulting from his
crimes and the frustration of the population, his guilt is
heavy,“ he said, noting that she had shown no sign of
Ms. Choi, dressed in a dark blue anorak with a badge bearing
her number, did little to respond to the sentence.
The prosecution had requested a 25-year prison sentence
against the secret friend, „the alpha and the omega of the
A co-defendant, Shin Dong-bin, president of Lotte, South
Korea’s fifth „chaebol“ as are called South Korean
conglomerates, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
He had appeared free and a warrant of committal was delivered
at the hearing.
Another co-accused, Ahn Jong-beom, a former adviser to Ms.
Park, was sentenced to six years in prison.
Ms. Choi had denied everything altogether. She explains that
she never sought personal benefits and that she was trying to
help Ms. Park in her job. She also accuses the prosecutor of
His lawyer, Lee Kyung-jae, announced his intention to
appeal, denouncing a „heavy sentence to the limit of
– unhealthy acquaintances –
In a context of increasing economic and social frustration,
Ms. Park was dismissed in December 2016 by the National
Assembly, a decision confirmed three months later by the
This had at the same time allowed the lifting of his
presidential immunity, his detention on remand and his
The scandal exposed unhealthy connections between political
and economic elites. Chaebols, sprawling family empires, are
the engines of a flourishing South Korean economy. Groups like
Samsung and Hyundai played a crucial role in the economic
„miracle“ of the 1960s and 1970s that transformed the war-torn
Last week, the South Korean justice
released the heir to the Samsung empire, Lee Jae-Yong, tried in
the same scandal. His conviction was upheld on appeal but the
sentence was reduced to stay. It is the third member of the
family clan to benefit from the clemency of the courts.
The court ruled on Tuesday that Samsung’s 3.65 billion won
to pay horses and horse equipment to Ms. Choi’s daughter, as
well as $ 3.6 billion paid to a company under her control, jars
of wine. But, there is no evidence that Samsung has asked for
political favors in return, she said.
Ms. Park’s trial is lengthy. Her lawyers resigned
collectively and she stopped appearing, claiming to be a victim
of „political revenge“.