Choi Tae-min

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Choi Tae-min
Born (1912-05-05)5 May 1912
So-dong, Sariwon, Hwanghae
Died 1 May 1994(1994-05-01) (aged 81)
Yeoksam-dong, Seoul
Education Chaeryong Potong School
Spouse(s) Lim Seon-yi
Children Choi Soon-sil
Relatives Chung Yoo-ra (granddaughter)
Korean name
Hangul
Hanja
Revised Romanization Choe Tae-min
McCune–Reischauer Ch'oe T'ae-min
Birth name
Hangul
Hanja
Revised Romanization Choe Do-won
McCune–Reischauer Ch'oe To-wŏn

Choi Tae-min (5 May 1912 – 1 May 1994) was the leader of a South Korean cult combining elements of Buddhism, Christianity, and traditional Korean Shamanism[1]. Choi, originally a Buddhist monk, then a convert to Roman Catholicism, was married six times. He was the mentor of the impeached South Korean president, Park Geun-hye (the daughter of former president Park Chung-hee), until his death in 1994. He allegedly used his relationship with Park to solicit bribes from government officials and businessmen.[2][3] In late 2016, a scandal involving his daughter, Choi Soon-sil, broke out, with allegations that she too has exerted undue influence over President Park.[3][4]

History[edit]

Choi Tae-min set up a religious group called Yongsae-gyo (영세교), or “Church of spirit world”, and declared himself Maitreya, or a “Future Buddha.”[5] He befriended Park Geun-hye soon after her mother, Yuk Young-soo, was assassinated in 1974. According to a report by the Korean Central Intelligence Agency from the 1970s that was published by a South Korean news magazine in 2007, Choi initially approached Park Geun-hye by telling her that her mother had appeared to him in his dreams, asking him to help her daughter.[6]

Choi was an associate of former-president President Park Chung-hee until the latter's death by assassination in 1979. Kim Jae-gyu, the director of the KCIA who assassinated President Park Chung-hee, told a court that one of his motives was what he called the president’s failure to stop Choi Tae-min's corrupt activities and keep him away from his daughter.[3]

In a newspaper interview in 2007, Park Geun-hye called Choi a patriot and said she was grateful for his counsel and comfort during “difficult times.”

Also in 2007, a diplomatic cable made public through WikiLeaks, the American Embassy in Seoul reported rumors that Mr. Choi, a 'Korean Rasputin', “had complete control over Park’s body and soul during her formative years and that his children accumulated enormous wealth as a result.”[7][8]

Frequently-used names[edit]

He used seven different names.[9][3]

  • Choi Do-won (최도원, 崔道源, 1927)
  • Choi Sang-hun (최상훈, 崔尙勳, 1945)
  • Choi Bong-su (최봉수, 崔峰壽, 1951)
  • Choi Toe-un (최퇴운, 崔退雲, 1954)
  • Gong Hae-nam (공해남, 孔亥南, 1969)
  • Bang Min (방민, 房敏, 1971)
  • Choi Tae-min (최태민, 崔太敏, 1975)

References[edit]