2016 South Korean political scandal
This article is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (March 2017)
The 2016 South Korean political scandal (Korean: 박근혜·최순실 게이트, Park Geun-hye–Choi Soon-sil gate) involves the influence of Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a shaman-esque cult leader Choi Tae-min, over President Park Geun-hye.
Widespread coverage of this South Korean political scandal began in late October 2016. On November 29, Park offered to begin the process of removing herself from power. On December 9, Park was impeached, and then Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn became the acting president. On December 21, a Special Prosecution Team led by Park Young Soo began to investigate the Choi Soon-sil scandal. On March 10, 2017, The Constitutional Court of Korea ruled to uphold the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye. All 8 judges agreed that President Park abused her power. A new election was held 60 days after with Moon Jae-in, a member of the Democratic Party of Korea, winning over 41% of the popular vote in the election.
- 1 Background
- 2 Media revelations
- 3 Arrests
- 4 Parliamentary hearing
- 5 Public apology and presidential approval rating falls
- 6 Protests
- 7 Impeachment process
- 8 Sentencing
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Choi Soon-sil has known President Park since the 1970s when Choi's father, Choi Tae-min, offered to counsel and advise Park as she and the family was still grieving for the assassination of then first-lady Yuk Young-soo. Choi at that time claimed that the shamanic leader can channel communication to her dead mother. Choi Soon-sil is alleged for dictating or at the least influencing her decisions on everything from President Park's handbags to state affairs. Choi has been indicted for extorting bribes, abusing power illegally and leaking classified documents. Choi is also accused of having influenced Ewha Womans University to change their admission criteria in order for her daughter Chung Yoo-ra to be given a place there.
Several news media including JTBC and Chosun Broadcasting Company reported that Choi, who has no official government position, had access to confidential documents and information for the president, and acted as a very close confidant for the president. Media outlets reported that Choi and President Park's senior staff members, including both Ahn Jong-bum and Jeong Ho-sung, have allegedly used their influence to extort ₩77.4 billion($60 million) from Korean chaebols—family-owned large business conglomerates—and set up two culture- and sports-related foundations, Mir and K-sports foundations.
Starting point of the media report: On Oct. 24, 2016, JTBC Newsroom reported independently that Choi had received 44 presidential speeches before the President publicly announced on the basis of her tablet computer data, which Choi had abandoned. One of the most troubling of these was the speech file of the Hangul file format, which contained the contents of the Dresden Declaration that President Park visited on March 28, 2014 in Dresden, Germany
- On November 2, 2016, top presidential aides Ahn Jong-bum and Jeong Ho-sung were arrested for abusing power and aiding Choi. The Supreme Prosecutors' Office of Korea (SPO), in laying charges against Choi and two former presidential aides, have alleged that President Park colluded with the three in certain criminal activities. The president will be questioned by prosecutors, the first time this has occurred with a serving South Korean president.
- On November 8, award-winning music video director Cha Eun-taek was arrested at the Incheon International Airport upon his return from China. He was accused of "meddling in state-led projects and exerted undue influence in the culture sector".
- On December 31, a chief of the National Pension Fund and former health & welfare minister Moon Hyung-pyo was arrested for pressuring the state fund to back a major merger deal for Samsung C&T.
- On January 2, 2017, Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, was arrested in Denmark for staying in the country illegally.
- On January 3, Ewha Womans University professor and renowned writer Ryu Chul-kyun (pen name Yi In-hwa) was arrested for doing the homework of Chung Yoo-ra.
- On January 11, former chief of admissions at Ewha Womans University Namkung Gon was arrested for perjury charges.
- On January 12, former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok and two other former senior officials were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the blacklisting.
- On January 18, former dean of Ewha Womans University college of science and industry convergence Kim Kyung-Sook was arrested for charges of granting special admission for Chung Yoo-ra.
- On January 21, Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun was arrested for drawing up a blacklist of cultural figures critical of President Park. Former Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-Choon was also arrested for masterminding the blacklist containing 10,000 cultural figures considered "left-leaning" who were critical of President Park. Ewha Womans University Professor Lee In-sung was also arrested.
- On February 15, former Ewha Womans University president Choi Kyung Hee was arrested over charges of granting admission and grading favors to Chung Yoo-ra, a daughter of Choi Soon-sil.
- On February 16, vice president of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong (JY Lee), was arrested on bribery charges. Mr. Lee is accused of paying $36 million in bribes to Choi Soon-sil, in return for political favors.
- In November 2017 as part of further investigations into corruption during the Park presidency two former National Intelligence Service directors Nam Jae-joon and Lee Byung-kee were arrested for embezzlement and bribery. They were arrested for illegally funneling tens of thousands of U.S. dollars a month from their spy agency’s secret budget for Park’s private use through her presidential office budget.
Arrest of Park Geun-hye
On 30 March 2017 the Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant for Park's arrest on corruption charges. She was arrested later that day.
On 6 December, chiefs of South Korea's major conglomerates (chaebols) came to the National Assembly to attend the first parliamentary hearing on the scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her long-time confidante Choi Soon-sil. It happened for the first time since 1988. Participants included Samsung Electronics Vice Chair Lee Jae-yong, Hyundai Motor Chair Chung Mong-koo, Lotte Group Chair Shin Dong-bin, SK Group Chair Chey Tae-won and the heads of CJ, LG, Hanwha and Hanjin, The Federation of Korean Industries. In the hearing, presidents of the chaebols told the parliament that they were not seeking favours when they made contributions to two foundations at the heart of a scandal that appeared poised to bring down President Park Geun-hye.
On 7 December, President Park's former aides, including ex-chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and former Vice Culture Minister Kim Jong, testified in the 2nd parliamentary hearing about suspicions that Choi Soon-sil meddled in government affairs.
On 14 December, the Special Committee of the Parliament held a 3rd hearing, focused on solving the mystery surrounding President Park’s 7-hour public absence on the day of the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking.
On 15 December, the Special Committee held a 4th hearing to question the allegations over Mir and K-Sports foundation and how Chung Yoo-ra cheated her way through Ewha Womans University. Jeong Hyun-sik, a former K-Sports head and former Ewha Womans University president Choi Kyung-hee and other affiliated people testified in the hearing.
On 26 December, special committee members of National Assembly held a 6th hearing in a prison and met Choi Soon-sil in her detention cell; she repeatedly refused to attend a parliamentary hearing. She denied most of her allegations over the influence-peddling scandal.
On 9 January 2017, a 7th hearing was held to question Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun, former chief of admissions at Ewha Womans University Namkung Gon, K-Sports Foundation Chairman Chung Dong Chun and a staffer at the presidential security office Ku Soon-sung. The hearing confirmed that a blacklist for left-leaning artists existed.
Public apology and presidential approval rating falls
On October 25, 2016, President Park publicly acknowledged her close ties with Choi and apologized to the public. On October 28, Park dismissed key members of her top office staff while her approval ratings fell to 5%. Her approval rating ranged from 1 to 3% for Korean citizens under 60 years of age, while it remained higher at 13% for over 60 years age group. It was the worst ever presidential approval rating in the Korean history and even lower than the 6% approval rating of former President Kim Young-sam, who was widely blamed for failing the Korean economy, which eventually led to the Asian Financial Crisis. On November 4, President Park apologized for the second time. On November 29, Park offered to resign as President and invited the National Assembly to arrange a transfer of power. The opposition parties rejected the offer, accusing Park of attempting to avoid the process of impeachment.
The revelations about the relationship between Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil caused mass demonstrations in Seoul. Protesters called for the resignation of Park Geun-hye. On November 12, more than 1 million citizens participated in the protests at Gwanghwamun Square close to presidential residence demanding President Park's resignation or impeachment. On November 19, another 1 million citizens participated in the national protest after President Park refused to help the investigation of her abuse of power. On November 26, more than 2 million citizens participated in the protest, calling for the resignation of President Park. Protests went on, and on January 21, 2017, a 13th protest was held in Seoul with more than 200,000 attendees.
On December 5, 2016, three opposition parties agreed to introduce a joint impeachment motion against President Park Geun-hye. The motion, which was signed by 171 of 300 lawmakers, was put to a vote on Friday, 9 December 2016, and passed with 234 out of 300 votes, a tally much greater than the required 2/3 majority and which included many of Park's own ruling party.
Court hearing and trial
On December 19, Choi Soon-sil attended the first hearing in the trial of President Park in Seoul District Court. In the first hearing, prosecutors say Choi used their relationship to pressure companies to donate to two foundations, and siphoned off money for personal use. However, she denies the allegations that she influenced the president.
On January 5, 2017, constitutional court began its first trial regarding President Park's impeachment. On January 16, 2017, Choi Soon-sil testified herself in the Constitutional Court and denied any wrongdoings. The Constitutional Court declared that it will hold the final pleading from President Park on Feb. 24, suggesting that the court will make a decision on the impeachment trial before March 13.
On March 10, the court issued a unanimous ruling, confirming the impeachment proposal and removing President Park from office.
- Choi Soon-sil was convicted on June 23, 2017 of conspiring with several officials and professors of Ewha Womans University to get her daughter admitted into the university despite not meeting the qualification criteria. She was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. The university's former professor Choi Kyung-hee as well as a former dean were both sentenced to two years of imprisonment, while another official was sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison. Three other professors received a suspended sentence while two others were fined.
- On February 13, 2018, the Seoul Central District Court also found Choi guilty for abuse of power, bribery and interfering in government business  and sentenced her to 20 years in prison and a fine of ₩18 billion ($16.6 million USD).
- On July 27, 2017, former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-Choon was sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in blacklisting those who were deemed leftist artists. His prison term was increased to four years on 23 January 2018.
- Former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun was sentenced to one year for perjury, which was suspended for two years. Another former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok and former Vice Culture Minister Jung Kwan-joo were also sentenced to two years and 18 months in prison, respectively. Cho was given a prison term of two years on 23 January 2018 for her involvement in the blacklisting of artists.
- Samsung Electronics' vice-chairman Lee Jae-Yong was convicted on August 25, 2017 for bribery, embezzlement, perjury and other charges relating to payments and promises by Samsung worth ₩43.3 billion (about $40 millon). He was sentenced to five years in prison. His prison term was reduced to two-and-a-half years suspended prison term on February 5, 2018, allowing him to be released.
- Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for offering $6.5 million as bribe to Choi and former President Park on February 13, 2018.
- On April 6, 2018, former president Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 18 billion won. She was found guilty of 16 of 18 charges against her. 
Other figures sentenced
- In June 2017, the former Minister of Health and Welfare and former National Pension Service Director Moon Hyung-pyo was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for his role in pressuring Samsung to approve a merger and abusing the power of his two offices. His charges were connected to the Samsung-Park scandal.
- In July 2017, former presidential secretary for cultural and sports affairs Kim So-young, was sentenced to a 18 month term suspended for two years. Former senior presidential secretary for education and culture and former vice culture minister Kim Sang-ryul as well as former presidential secretary for political affairs Shin Dong-chul, were sentenced to 18-months imprisonment.
- In January 2018, former Minister of Culture Cho Yoon-sun was sentenced to two years in prison for her role in the blacklisting scandal. She was earlier allowed to leave prison in July 2017 due to her prior lesser perjury charge being changed to a suspended sentence.
- In June 2018, three former National Intelligence Service directors (Lee Byung-kee, Lee Byung-ho, and Nam Jae-joon) who served in the Park administration were found guilty of bribing related to the 2016 Park administration scandals and sentenced to prison. They illegally transferred money from the NIS budget to Park's presidential office without any approval or oversight from the National Assembly. This illegally obtained money was used by Park and her associates for private use and to pay bribes. In addition to the three former NIS directors who were sentenced to prison former Finance Minister Choi Kyoung-hwan was sentenced to five years related to the NIS bribery scandal.
- "'Rasputin-like' friend of South Korean president returns amid protests". The Guardian. October 30, 2016.
- "Cult leader's daughter may upend South Korea presidency". CBS NEWS. October 30, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
- "Park Geun-hye and the friendship behind S Korea's presidential crisis". BBC News. October 31, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
- "All the Queen's men and women". The Straits Times. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Williams, Jennifer. "The bizarre political scandal that just brought down South Korea's president". Vox. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "Investigations into 'Choi Soon-sil gate' widening". The Korea Times. October 23, 2016.
- "South Korea's embattled president offers to relinquish power". Reuters. November 29, 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
- "After impeachment, South Korea prime minister urges calm, vigilance". Reuters. December 9, 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- "Special Prosecutor pledges to figure out bribery, question President Park". 2016-12-03. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "Independent counsel to officially launch probe into influence-peddling scandal". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- CNN, Paula Hancocks and Euan McKirdy. "South Korea: Constitutional court upholds President Park's impeachment". CNN. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
- "AP EXPLAINS: What we know about S. Korean political scandal". Associated Press. October 26, 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
- "A Presidential Friendship Has Many South Koreans Crying Foul". New York Times. October 27, 2016.
- "South Korea's president fights impeachment and other demons". The Economist. 2016-12-17. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "'It's actually a system where Choi Sun-sil tells the President what to do'". Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- Gale, Alastair; Nam, In-Soo (2016-11-20). "South Korean President Aided Extortion Scheme: Prosecutors". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- McCurry, Justin (30 October 2016). "'Rasputin-like' friend of South Korean president returns amid protests". The Guardian.
- "박 대통령 독대한 대기업들 미르·K 출연금 유독 많았다". The Hankyoreh. 3 November 2016.
- "[단독]"미르-K스포츠재단 모금, 안종범 수석이 지시했다"". news.donga.com.
- "Heads of Samsung, Hyundai and Others Probed Over South Korea Scandal". Fortune. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "[Independence] Presidents '44 speeches ...' to secret 'Dresden'". news.naver.com. Retrieved 2017-09-11.
- "검찰, 안종범 전 정책조정수석 긴급체포…서울남부구치소로 이송". news.donga.com. Archived from the original on 2016-11-04.
- "2 former aides of President Park arrested as South Korea scandal widens". Associated Press. 2016-11-06. Retrieved 2017-01-22 – via Los Angeles Times.
- Agence France-Presse (20 November 2016). "Choi-gate prosecutors accuse South Korean president of collusion". The Guardian.
- "최순실, 딸 친구 부모 민원 들어주고 1000만원 샤넬백 등 5000만원 챙겨". news.chosun.com.
- "檢, 헌정사상 첫 현직 대통령 피의자 입건…"3명과 공모범행"(종합)". news.nate.com.
- "Cha Eun-taek, a key figure of Choi scandal, arrested at airport". Korea Herald.
- "S. Korea's pension fund chief formally arrested in corruption probe". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- correspondent, Jon Henley European affairs (2017-01-02). "Denmark awaits Seoul's extradition request for Choi Soon-sil's daughter". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "South Korea scandal: Daughter of Choi Soon-sil arrested". BBC News. 2017-01-02. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- Ha, Jong-Dae (2017-01-03). "The collapse of 'The Eternal Empire'". The Dong-a Ilbo.
- "Spate of arrests in Ewha University 'favours' scandal". 13 January 2017.
- "Ex-Culture Minister Arrested for Artist Blacklist". world.kbs.co.kr. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- Lee, Kyung-min (2017-01-18). "Ex-Ewha president grilled over favors for Choi's daughter". The Korea Times.
- "Former Dean of college Kim Kyung-sook arrested, and the next target would be Choi Kyung-hee". 2017-01-18.
- "Kim Ki-choon and Culture Minister arrest warrants issued over cultural blacklist". Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- Reuters (2017-01-20). "Fresh turmoil in South Korea as minister arrested over 'arts blacklist'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
- Sang-hun, Choe (2017-01-20). "South Korea Arrests 2 Presidential Aides Over Blacklist of Artists". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- 최송아 (2017-01-21). "'정유라 과제 해주고 학점 특혜' 이인성 이대 교수 구속". 연합뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "Ex-university chief arrested in corruption probe". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- Sang-hun, Choe (2017-02-16). "Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Heir, Is Arrested on Bribery Charges". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- "Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong arrested in South Korea". BBC News. 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171117000598 . Retrieved 11 February 2018.
- "Ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye arrested". BBC. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
- "[ASSEMBLY HEARING] Tension, disappointment engulf largest hearing on chaebol" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "Chiefs of S.Korean conglomerates attend parliamentary hearing for presidential scandal". Xinhua. 6 December 2016.
- "South Korea's corporate chiefs deny seeking favours for donations during parliament hearing". Strait Times. 6 December 2016.
- "Parliament holds second round of hearings on Choi scandal". 2016-12-07.
- "(3rd LD) Parliament hearing focuses on Park's alleged inaction during ferry disaster". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "(4th LD) New allegations emerge from corruption hearing". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- Herald, The Korea (2016-12-22). "Parliament holds fifth round of hearings to question former Park aide". Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "[LIVE] Ex-presidential secretary, nurse quizzed over Park Geun-hye scandal". koreatimes. 2016-12-22. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "Choi Denies Charges at Controversial Detention Cell Interrogation". 2016-12-27.
- "Lawmakers Interrogate Choi at Detention Cell". 2016-12-27.
- "South Korea official admits to blacklist of artists critical of Park Geun-hye". UPI. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- "Culture minister admits to existence of blacklist". koreatimes (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- "President Park breaks YS's record, approval rating at 5 percent". Oh My News. November 6, 2016.
- "데일리 오피니언 제234호(2016년 11월 1주)" [Daily Opinion No. 234 (November 1, 2016)]. Gallup Korea.
- "Park orders secretaries to resign over 'Choi Soon-sil scandal'". The Korea Times. October 28, 2016.
- McCurry, Justin (29 November 2016). "South Korea's president calls on parliament to arrange her exit". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
- "전국에서 '최순실 의혹' 진상규명·대통령 퇴진 요구 집회".
- "'분노한 민심'…서울 도심 '박근혜 하야' 촉구 대규모 집회".
- "Thousands protest in South Korea, demand president quit over scandal". Reuters.
- "ONE MILLION protesters storm Seoul's streets, demanding Park's resignation". koreatimes. 2016-11-12. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "들불로 번진 2주연속 '100만 촛불혁명'…26일 300만 예고". news.nate.com.
- "Dreaming of a new world, one million candles again burn nationwide". english.hani.co.kr.
- CNN, Madison Park. "South Korean protesters demand President Park's resignation". CNN. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "Protesters hold 13th weekly rally to demand Park's ouster". 2017-01-21.
- "South Korea's Opposition Parties Move to Impeach President Park Geun-hye". Wall Street Journal. December 3, 2016.
- "South Korea corruption suspect Choi Soon-sil in court". BBC. December 19, 2016.
- "Choi Soon-sil, Park Geun-hye confidante, denies in trial that she extorted money". Washington Times. December 19, 2016.
- Divya, Kishore (January 5, 2017). "South Korea's Constitutional Court starts President Park Geun-hye's impeachment trial".
- "Choi Soon-sil testifies in impeachment trial of President Park". www.efe.com. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "(2nd LD) Choi denies all wrongdoing in Park impeachment trial". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- Herald, The Korea (2017-02-16). "Court to wrap out impeachment pleadings on Feb. 24". Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- "Park Geun-hye: Court ousts South Korea's scandal-hit president". BBC News. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
- Choe Sang-hun. "In South Korea, Confidante of Ousted President Gets 3 Years in Prison". New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
- "Choi Soon-sil sentenced to 20 years in prison". The Korea Herald. 13 February 2018.
- "6 Ex-Officials in South Korea Are Sentenced for Blacklisting Artists". The Korea Herald. 27 July 2017.
- "South Korea court jails ex-culture minister over artist blacklist". Japan Times. 23 January 2018.
- "Fmr Presidential Chief of Staff Sentenced to 3 Yrs in Prison over Artists' Blacklist". KBS. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- "Samsung heir guilty of bribery, sentenced to five years jail". Agence-France Presse. Gulf News. 25 August 2017.
- "Samsung heir freed from prison after court reduces sentence in corruption case". Associated Press. Los Angeles Times. 5 February 2018.
- "South Korean Court Sentences Ex-President's Confidante to 20 Years". New York Times. 13 February 2018.
- "[BREAKING] Park sentenced to 24 years in jail". The Korea Times. 6 April 2018.
- https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-politics-samsung-pensions/former-south-korean-minister-jailed-over-role-in-samsung-merger-yonhap-idUSKBN18Z0SM . Retrieved 11 February 2018.
- Kim Ki-choon receives 3 years over blacklist Retrieved 12 April 2018.
- http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2130123/former-south-korean-culture-minister-jailed-over-blacklist . Retrieved 11 February 2018.
- https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/15/asia-pacific/south-korea-jails-ex-spy-chiefs-bribing-former-president-park-geun-hye/ . Retrieved 1 July 2018
- https://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2018/06/29/0200000000AEN20180629003651315.html . Retrieved 1 July 2018
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Movement for the resignation of Park Geun-hye.|