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South Korean Ex-President’s Confidante Sentenced to 20 years in Prison

via The Washington Post

On Tuesday, Choi Soon-Sil, 62, the central figure in a corruption scandal that led former South Korean President Park Geun-Hye to be impeached and removed from office, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was ordered to pay $17 million.

According to Judge Kim Se-Yoon, the confidante of the former South Korean president took advantage of her influential private ties to force companies, such as Samsung, to give donations for her foundations that were supposed to be used for sports but instead were used for illicit purposes. The court unearthed evidence that showed Choi had forced about 50 businesses to pay about $71 million to her two foundations.

“In light of the size of material gains obtained by the accused, the severe confusion in state affairs caused by her crimes and the people’s sense of frustration, the guilt of the accused is very heavy,” said the judge.

Both Choi Soon-Sil and Park Geun-Hye have known each other for about four decades, as Choi’s father, who was a shaman-fortune teller, had a close relationship to Park’s father, who was South Korea’s autocratic president from 1963 until his assassination in 1979. After Park’s mother was assassinated, the shaman began taking on a role where he started conveying messages to Park, coming from her in the afterlife, which led American diplomats to call him a “Korean Rasputin.”

This role continued on well after the shaman’s death in 1994, when Choi Soon-Sil took over the role, giving spiritual advice to Park. Although Choi did not hold any official role, she was nevertheless involved in governmental policy and decision-making during Park’s administration.

Although prosecutors were seeking a 25-year prison sentence and a $109 million fine, lawyers for Choi told the court that the sentence was “bordering on cruelty,” and said that they would immediately appeal.

On a related note, the chairman of Lotte Corporation, Shin Dong-Bin was also sentenced on Tuesday to two and a half years in prison and was fined $7 million he gave as bribes.

[via The Washington Post]

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