South Korea pushes for extradition of Choi Soon Sil's daughter

(R) South Korea's Chung Yoo-ra, then known as Chung Yoo-yeon, bites her gold medal as she poses after winning the equestrian Dressage Team competition at the Dream Park Equestrian Venue during the 17th Asian Games in Incheon September 20, 2014.
PHOTO: AFP

South Korean authorities said on Tuesday (Jan 3) they will proceed with steps to extradite Chung Yoo Ra, the daughter of a central figure in a South Korean political scandal that has led to a parliament vote to impeach President Park Geun Hye.

Chung is being held in Denmark after police there arrested her on Sunday in the northern city of Aalborg. Denmark's public prosecutor said on Monday that Chung will remain in custody for four weeks after having been charged with committing economic crime in South Korea.

Chung is the 20-year-old daughter of Choi Soon Sil, a friend of Park accused of colluding with the president to pressure businesses to contribute to non-profit organisations.

Both have denied any wrongdoing. "Chung has said she is willing to return to South Korea in three days if she is set free upon entry, which the government has declined to accept," South Korea's special prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Choi accused of interfering in state affairs using relationship with President

  • The woman at the centre of a corruption scandal that triggered the biggest political crisis for a generation in South Korea appeared in court Monday for a preliminary hearing in her trial on fraud charges.
  • It was the first public appearance since October for Choi Soon-Sil, who has been dubbed Korea’s “female Rasputin” for the influence she wielded over the now-impeached president, Park Geun-Hye.
  • Sporting black-rimmed glasses and a surgical mask that obscured her face, Choi, who has been in custody for the past seven weeks, was brought to the Seoul Central District Court in a special prison bus.
  • Television footage showed her handcuffed and wearing a blue-grey prison outfit with a serial number on the chest as she was taken off the bus and led into the court building by a female guard.
  • The 60-year-old faces trial on charges of embezzlement and abuse of power – largely related to huge “donations” made by conglomerates to two dubious foundations she controlled and allegedly plundered.
  • A long-time friend of Park’s, Choi is accused of using her leverage with the president to strong-arm the companies into handing over tens of millions of dollars.
  • Accusations that Park colluded with Choi formed the basis of an impeachment motion against the president that was passed by parliament earlier this month.
  • The motion is now being considered by the Constitutional Court which has up to 180 days to make a ruling on whether to endorse or reject the president’s ouster.
  • The last time Choi was seen in public was in late October when she attended a summons at the Seoul prosecutor’s office and famously lost a much-photographed Prada shoe in the media scrum outside the building.
  • Choi was not obliged to turn up for Monday’s hearing, which was largely procedural and focused on preparing the way for the trial proper.
  • “She has expressed a willingness to participate sincerely in the trial,” Lee was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.
  • But her lawyer, Lee Kyung-Jae, said she had volunteered to appear.
  • Choi was criticised for refusing to attend the hearings of a parliamentary committee investigating the scandal.
  • Park is also accused of ordering aides to leak confidential state documents to Choi, who has no official title or security clearance, and allowing her to meddle in some state affairs, including the appointment of top officials.
  • Choi Soon-sil, accused of interfering in state affairs using her relationship with President Park Geun-hye, arrived at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office building in Seoul on Monday to face questioning over her alleged influence peddling.
  • Choi, a longtime confidante and shaman-like adviser to Park, had returned to Seoul on Sunday from Europe, capping a week of turmoil that led to a massive anti-government rally over the weekend.
  • Choi, a private citizen with no position in making policy, will be investigated over allegations of taking advantage of her political ties with President Park and coercing conglomerates to donate money to two foundations she controls.
  • She is also accused of seeking academic favors from professors at Ewha Womans University for her daughter Chung Yoo-ra.

It added there is a chance Chung, an equestrian competitor who trained in Germany, may choose to return to South Korea voluntarily.

The scandal has drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets of Seoul for weekly demonstrations and could result in Park, 64, becoming the first democratically elected South Korean leader to leave office early.

Park was impeached by parliament early last year, a decision that must be upheld or rejected by the Constitutional Court. Arguments were set to begin on Tuesday in a court process that could take several months.

Meanwhile, South Korea's ambassador to Denmark delivered a letter of intent to Chung to cancel her passport, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

As a result, Chung's passport will no longer be valid after Jan 10, Yonhap.

Chung's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.