Choi Soon-sil, President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend accused of manipulating power behind the scenes, may have pulled strings in the country’s controversial deal with Japan last year that settled long-running disputes over former sex slave victims under Japanese colonial rule, a local media outlet reported Monday.
According to Segye Ilbo, Special Counsel Park Young-soo is investigating the notion following a tip-off from an undisclosed person that Choi was behind the 2015 agreement. The investigative team also suspects Yi Pyung-gi, who was at that time Park’s chief of staff, may have been involved with or at least have some knowledge of Choi’s role.
Earlier this month, the special prosecutor’s team raided Yi’s house and investigated another person -- a Korean-Japanese scholar, the report said. Under Park’s administration, Yi held several key positions as the ambassador to Japan and the director of the nation’s spy agency.
Lee Kyu-chul, the special counsel team’s spokesman, could not be reached.
The revelation, if found true, could add a new layer to Park’s ongoing impeachment, although it was not listed in the parliamentary motion to sack her.
The agreement on the military sexual slavery issue was reached in 2015 by both governments as “final and irreversible.” Japan agreed to disburse 100 million won ($84,500) to surviving victims and 20 million won to families of the deceased.
A dozen victims, however, have refused to receive the money, blasting the deal as a “sell-out.” They say the Japanese government is trying to shirk its responsibility for the wartime crimes with the fund.
The 12 victims sued the South Korean government last year for failing to represent their damage properly, their legal representative the Foundation for Justice and Remembrance of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Victims said.
Choi, the jailed confidante of President Park, is currently under investigation by the special prosecutor’s team over a streak of allegations including meddling in key government affairs and forcing big businesses to donate money to her foundations, using her ties to the president. She held no governmental position in Park’s administration. Largely due to the scandal, Park was impeached by the parliament on Dec. 9.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org)