Allegations that Choi Soon-sil (60) is the secret heavyweight closely working with President Park Geun-hye have once again surfaced at the center of the nation's political circle. Suspicions have been raised that Choi was deeply involved in the management of K-Sports Foundation, including the appointment of the foundation's chairman.
K-Sports Foundation and the Mir Foundation, private foundations, have long been connected to allegations that there was pressure from Cheong Wa Dae in the process of raising 28.8 billion won and 48.6 billion won of donations respectively from businesses.
Choi's name came up as a possible mastermind behind the alleged "donation connection," starting from Cheong Wa Dae and leading to the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), major businesses, and the Mir Foundation and K-Sports Foundation.
Opposition parties all launched an attack arguing that this was another version of the Ilhae Foundation under the Chun Doo-hwan regime and that this would provide reasonable grounds for an impeachment if the allegations were true. This was possible because each and every one of the allegations, such as the use of public authority to force donations and a secret mastermind behind such activities, is controversial enough to shake the government.
The opposition parties have cited five major problems. The first is how the two foundations came to collect tens of billions of won in donations from large companies in such a short period of time. Opposition parties claim, "The Mir Foundation and K-Sports Foundation collected donations reaching 80 billion won in just a few months since their establishment," and are pointing to Ahn Jong-beom, senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for policy coordination as the mastermind behind such an accomplishment.
In other words, they suspect that Cheong Wa Dae may have twisted the arms of the large companies and forced them to cough up the donations.
Also generally when a foundation is established, it takes as short as a week to as long as a month to receive the relevant authority's approval, but the establishment of the two foundations was approved the day after the applications were submitted, raising allegations of special treatment. The opposition parties suspect Cheong Wa Dae to be behind such handling of matters as well.
The opposition parties also raised allegations that government influence was also exerted in the establishment and management of K-Sports Foundation. Circumstances show that Choi, a secret heavyweight related to President Park Geun-hye, was involved in the overall management of K-Sports Foundation including the appointment of the foundation's chairman, and the opposition parties believe that such allegations were revealed in the recent news coverage.
The Minjoo Party of Korea lawmaker Cho Eung-cheon, who served as a Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public office discipline under the incumbent government argued, "Choi Soon-sil is the person who ordered and delivered the 3.4 million won hanbok that President Park wore during her inauguration ceremony from Kim Yeong-seok, a director of the Mir Foundation.
According to recently obtained information, Choi also purchased and delivered accessories such as brooches and necklaces for the president from Cheongsam-dong," during an interpellation session at the National Assembly this day.
At the same time, Cho raised allegations claiming, "There is also word that the president's relationship with Choi had some influence on the appointment of Woo Byung-woo as secretary of civil affairs and Yoon Jeon-choo (a former personal trainer) as a Cheong Wa Dae administrator."
The opposition parties particularly expressed their suspicions on the background of the establishment of the two foundations. Perhaps, the foundations were established to prepare for when the president left office. Justice Party floor leader Roh Hoe-chan said, "(Based on a number of circumstances) All I can say is that this looks like the reenactment of the Ilhae Foundation, which was created for after the president left office by forcing businesses to make donations."
The opposition parties are trying to have Senior Secretary Ahn Jong-beom, Vice Chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries Lee Seung-cheol, presidents of large businesses and the foundations' representatives stand before the Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee at the National Assembly as witnesses.
But the Saenuri Party is fighting back saying, "The opposition parties are exaggerating the allegations, making political attacks, abusing their right and excessively summoning businessmen to stand as witnesses, attempting to tame them by lining them up, and trying to intimidate the private sector's donation culture."