Choi sought personal gain in state business in Myanmar

President Park Geun-hye’s confidant Choi Soon-sil, the central figure in the influence-peddling scandal, is facing an additional charge of seeking personal gain in state business worth 76 billion won ($65 million) in Myanmar, prosecutors said Monday. Choi is already on trial for abuse of authority, coercion and bribery.

The independent counsel team said it plans to file additional charges of receiving valuables in exchange for helping a company to participate in an Official Development Assistance (ODA) project last year. The amount of the bribes and the identity of the company have yet to be disclosed.

The team will question Korean Ambassador to Myanmar Yoo Jae-kyung today over his role in the allegation.

According to the team, the state project called “Myanmar K-Town” was spearheaded jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to find partners in untapped overseas markets, to boost hallyu, or the Korean wave, and to help achieve an economic initiative under the Park administration.

While the project initially was to be led by a private consortium, it was later taken over by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), a development aid organization under the foreign ministry.

The project, however, was scrapped as KOICA objected to the plan citing a lack of viability, coupled with an on-site report that concluded the project’s low marketability would yield little profit.

The team is looking into whether Choi sought to influence the decision to benefit her or the Mir Foundation, one of two organizations set up by her alongside the K-Sports Foundation.

This, the team added, shares too many similarities with “Iran K-Tower,” another state project spearheaded by Park.
Last May, Park and her delegation visited Iran to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Korea Land and Housing Corp (LH) and Iran’s Teachers’ Pension Fund.

The MOU, however, came under heavy criticism for specifically requiring the Mir Foundation to play the central role in the bilateral deal.

The team believes Choi, through the Mir Foundation, not only exerted influence with state decisions but also netted financial benefits.

Meanwhile, the team is going after Choi, who failed to appear before the team at 11 a.m. citing her objection to the team’s aggressive methods of interrogation.

Earlier last week, the team executed a court-issued custody warrant in bringing Choi to the team’s office in Daechi, southern Seoul, as she repeatedly refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Source: The Korea Times

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