(m. 1982; div. 1986)
(m. 1995; div. 2014)
|Parent(s)||Choi Tae-min (father)|
Lim Seon-yi (mother)
|Revised Romanization||Choe Sunsil|
|Revised Romanization||Choe Pillyeo|
|Revised Romanization||Choe Seowon|
Choi Soon-sil (Korean pronunciation: [t͡ɕʰø.sun.ɕil]; born June 23, 1956) is the prime person of interest in the 2016 South Korean political scandal involving her influence over the 11th President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye.
Choi is the daughter of Choi Tae-min, the leader of a cult combining various elements of Buddhism, Christianity, and traditional Korean Shamanism. Her ex-husband is President Park's former chief of staff Chung Yoon-hoi, and their daughter is dressage athlete Chung Yoo-ra.
Choi Soon-sil was born on June 23, 1956 as the 5th daughter in Choi Tae-min’s family. Her mother’s name is Im Sun-ie (임선이). She entered Dankook University in 1975, but was reported as an auditor. She married Kim Young-ho (김영호) in 1982 and had a son in 1983. They divorced in 1986. She married Choi Tae-min’s former secretary Chung Yoon-hoi in 1995 and had a daughter named Chung Yoo-ra. Soon-sil and Yoon-hoi divorced in 2014.
Choi’s relationship with Park Geun-hye is estimated to trace back to 1977. At that time, the National College Student Union, which started from a new mindset to “establish an uptight identity, a determined patriotism and an independent value system”, was founded, and Choi was the president. On June 10, 1977, the union held an opening meeting in Hanyang University. During this event the governor of the Saemaul peace corps was sitting on Park Geun-hye’s right side and President Lee Myung-bak was sitting on her left side.
After the 1980s, Choi started managing real estate business and operating kindergartens. In 1983, she acquired 45-pyong (about 149 square meters) of land in Yeoksam-dong, Seoul; in September 1985, she acquired 108-pyong (about 347 square meters) of land in Sinsa-dong and built a 4-story building. A kindergarten used to be operated in this building. In July 1988, she bought a 200-pyong (about 661 square meters) space of land in Sinsa-dong under a joint-contract with someone else. Later, she bought back the joint shares and became the sole owner of the property. From 1992 to 1996, Choi established and operated Jubel GmbH jointly with Chung Yoon-hoi. In July 2003, a building (referred to as M building) with 7 floors above ground and 2 floors underground was constructed with Choi’s investment. Chung Yoon-hoi’s company was a tenant in this building. In February 2008, Choi sold the kindergarten building to a savings bank. In 1989, Choi translated a child-care instruction book called “How To Hold Your Children’s Habit Upright ” with Kim Kwang-Ung (김광웅). This book introduced Choi as the vice president of research center affiliated to the Korea Institute of Culture.
In 2006, Park was attacked by a person with a razor when attending the election campaign for the Seoul mayor as the representative of Grand National Party (now known as Saenuri Party). Choi Soon-sil looked after Park when she was hospitalized. After leaving hospital, Park continued to receive treatment at Choi Soon-sil’s older sister Choi Soon-deuk’s house.
It is confirmed that Choi operates a cafe and an Italian restaurant “Testa Rossa" in Nonhyeon-dong (in Gangnam-gu, Seoul). The remodeled building has been running since December 2014 (with the first and second floor selling various drinks and sandwiches while the third floor is Choi’s private office.) An insider gave testimony saying that Choi has been contacting and meeting with politicians, influential businessmen and business tycoons on the 2nd and 3rd floors of this building.
2016 South Korean political scandal
The scandal involves allegations that she was responsible for masterminding governmental policy and decision making during Park's administration. Prosecutors have raided offices and homes linked to Choi. Park's secretaries have been ordered to resign following the scandal. She may have ordered Korean prosecutors to indict a Japanese journalist, Tatsuya Kato (Seoul Bureau chief of Sankei Shimbun), for defamation for reporting that President Park and Chung Yoon-hoi had a secret seven-hour meeting with Choi after the sinking of MV Sewol.
On October 31, Choi met with prosecutors, telling reporters “Please, forgive me. I’m sorry. I committed a sin that deserves death”.
As of November 20, Choi Soon-sil was officially charged by the prosecutors for intervening in state affairs and forcing chaebols to donate tens of millions of dollars to foundations and businesses over which she had control.
On 23 June 2017, the Seoul Central District Court found Choi guilty and sentenced her to three years of imprisonment on charges on obstruction of duty by using her presidential ties to get her daughter admitted to Ewha Womans University and receive good grades.
On 13 February 2018, the Seoul Central District Court 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).
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- "A Rasputinesque mystery woman and a cultish religion could take down South Korea's president". Quartz. October 28, 2016.
- "'It's actually a system where Choi Sun-sil tells the President what to do'". The Hankyoreh. October 26, 2016.
- "Investigations into 'Choi Soon-sil gate' widening". The Korea Times. October 23, 2016.
- "Key suspects still at large in Choi Sun-sil probe". JoongAng Ilbo. October 25, 2016.
- "Swirling Scandal Involving Shamanistic Cult Threatens S. Korean President". Retrieved 29 October 2016.
- Kim, Oi-hyun (December 3, 2014). "Pres. Park's former aide and his wife may be at the center of ongoing scandal". The Hankyoreh. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- Park, Sojung (September 20, 2014). "S. Korea wins gold in team dressage equestrian at Asiad". Yonhap. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- "이것만 보면 다 안다, 최순실 게이트 총정리" (in Korean). 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
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- "입주 건물도 최순실이 직접 고른 한국문화재단의 실체". pub.chosun.com (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "채널A 뉴스". www.ichannela.com (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "[Hearing on the Park Geun-hye, Choi Soon-sil Scandal] "I Recommended a Minister to Choi and It Went Through... I Wondered If There Could Be Such a Person"" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "All the Queen's men and women". The Straits Times. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- "Presidential speeches found on confidante's PC: report". The Korea Herald. October 25, 2016.
- "South Korea's presidency 'on the brink of collapse' as scandal grows". Washington Post. October 29, 2016.
- "Can Pres. Park be investigated over Choi Sun-sil scandal?". The Hankyoreh. October 28, 2016.
- "Troubling revelations about Seoul's 'Shadow President': The Korea Herald columnist". The Straits Times. October 27, 2016.
- "'Choi-gate' scandal snowballing". JoongAng Ilbo. October 22, 2016.
- "South Korea's leader acknowledges ties to woman in scandal". Washington Post. October 25, 2016.
- "South Korea's president accused of leaking classified documents". Channel NewsAsia. October 26, 2016.
- "Long hide-and-seek game begins for Choi Soon-sil". The Korea Times. October 27, 2016.
- "Park orders secretaries to resign over 'Choi Soon-sil scandal'". The Korea Times. October 28, 2016.
- "Korean Prosecutors Indict Japanese Journalist on Defamation Charge", The Wall Street Journal
- Time, Oct. 31, 2016
- AP, Nov. 20, 2016
- "South Korea corruption suspect Choi Soon-sil in court". BBC News. 19 December 2016.
- "South Korea: Choi Soon-sil handed three-year jail term". Al Jazeera. 23 June 2017.
- "Choi Soon-sil sentenced to 20 years in prison". The Korea Herald. 13 February 2018.