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(3rd LD) Independent counsel team requests arrest warrant against Ewha professor

All News 18:49 January 01, 2017

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; UPDATES paras 1-2; ADDS more info in 11th para)

SEOUL, Jan. 1 (Yonhap) -- The independent counsel team investigating a corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi Soon-sil requested an arrest warrant on Sunday against a professor suspected of offering academic favors to Choi's daughter.

The probe team, led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo, sought the warrant to formally arrest Ryu Chul-kyun, a professor of Ewha Womans University, who has allegedly offered inappropriate favors to Chung Yoo-ra in grading papers and exams.

He is suspected of having a teaching assistant take Chung's exam. On the day of the exam, Chung was reportedly in Germany. The university had already decided to expel Chung.

The special prosecutors have decided to apply the arrest warrant against Ryu due to the possibility of him attempting to destroy evidence, a source said.

This photo, taken on Dec. 31, 2016, shows Ryu Chul-kyun, a professor of Ewha Womans University, being escorted by police in Seoul to face questioning by the independent counsel team investigating a corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her friend. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, a former vice culture minister returned home Sunday after the independent counsel team questioned him over the alleged existence of a blacklist of cultural figures critical of the government.

The team queried former First Vice Culture Minister Kim He-beom for some 17 hours over allegations that Kim Ki-choon, former presidential chief of staff, interfered with top-level appointments at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2014.

The former vice minister was also questioned over the suspicion that the Park government had blacklisted artists and other cultural figures deemed to be critical of government policies. The list was purportedly drawn up to ban any government support of the figures in question.

The former presidential chief of staff is rumored to have directed Kim He-beom in October 2014 to receive resignations from six high-ranking officials at the ministry, some of whom had reportedly been against the blacklisting of artists. Three of the six officials have resigned.

Former Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryong said in a recent media interview that former Vice Minister Kim Chong had handed over the blacklist to Kim He-beom as well as the former presidential chief of staff.

The team said it will summon Song Kwang-yong, former senior presidential secretary for education and culture, on Monday to get more information about the blacklist. The independent counsel team hinted that it is also considering summoning Song Soo-keun, the current vice culture minister who is suspected of managing the alleged blacklist.

"Vice Minister Song is also under the independent counsel's probe," an official at the probe team told reporters, declining to be named.

Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn appointed Song last Friday despite the blacklist-related allegations. Song denies all accusations against him.

Over the weekend, the independent counsel team accelerated its probe into the corruption scandal as it questioned a series of figures implicated into the case.

The team questioned Moon Hyung-pyo, the chief of the National Pension Service (NPS), over suspicions that he pressured the state fund in July last year to back a merger deal between Samsung Group's two units when he was the health minister.

It queried Moon for 12 hours on Saturday after detaining him the same day.

A source with knowledge about the ongoing probe said that Moon had stated that he directed the NPS to back the merger deal after "consultation" with the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

The probe team also summoned Kim Chong, former vice culture minister, over allegations that he pressured Samsung Group to offer financial support to a sports center run by Choi's niece Chang Si-ho. Kim has denied the allegations.


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