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Choi ‘wailed’ at news of Park’s removal: niece

Mar 13,2017
Choi Soon-sil, the friend of former President Park Geun-hye whose alleged corruption and interference in the government led to Park’s impeachment, wailed at the news that the Constitutional Court removed Park from office.

That detail was part of testimony by Choi’s niece Jang Si-ho at a hearing in the trial of Choi, Jang and former Vice Culture Minister Kim Chong on charges of power abuse, embezzlement and leaking state secrets on Friday.

“During recess, Choi wailed loudly at the news of the court’s decision,” Jang testified. “I think Choi is under quite a bit of stress, I wish she would just tell everyone the truth.”

At this, Choi glared at Jang.

Jang and An Chong-bum, a former presidential aide indicted and detained on charges of coercing conglomerates to make massive contributions to two non-profit foundations controlled by Choi, stood as witnesses in the trial Friday.

Prosecutors questioned An around 11:30 a.m., saying, “The Constitutional Court has removed Park from office, and now she is not the president of the country anymore. Do you have anything to say additionally now that she is no longer in office?”

“I knew from the beginning that this case is an important one, and I have been testifying truthfully from the start,” An answered.

Choi Gwang-hyu, Choi’s defense lawyer, told reporters during a recess around 11:50 a.m. that he informed Choi of the court’s decision when he received the breaking news on his phone during the hearing.

Jang also testified on an allegation that Choi used her ties to the former president to extract bribes from Samsung and other conglomerates.

“I found a document on Choi’s desk that contained a schedule of meetings between former President Park and heads of conglomerates,” Jang said. “I saw it on the morning of July 24, 2015.

“On the first page, I saw the name Chung Mong-koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, scheduled to meet with Park from 2 p.m.,” she added. “And on the second page, I saw the name of Kim Seung-youn, chairman of the Hanwha Group.”

According to testimony by a 29-year-old secretary of Choi earlier this month, Jang was like a secretary to Choi, working for a winter sports education center established by Jang but allegedly run by Choi.

Park is alleged to have held closed-door meetings with heads of conglomerates on July 24 and 25, 2015, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo as well as executives of Hanwha, Kumho Asiana, CJ, Posco, Booyoung and LS. Samsung’s Lee has been detained since February in the corruption scandal.

Jang said she had provided the details of the meetings schedule to an independent counsel earlier.

Whenever Jang was testifying, Choi showed signs of unease, scratching her head frequently and letting out sighs of apparent frustration.

BY KIM NA-HAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]