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Park mentioned friend's daughter in ordering new sports programs: ex-vice minister

All News 17:09 January 23, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye cited her friend's daughter as an example of a young and gifted athlete as she ordered the establishment of programs to train emerging sportspeople, a former vice minister said Monday.

The remark by Kim Chong, vice culture and sports minister from 2013-2016, implicates Park further in allegations that she abused her power to give undue favors to her friend Choi Soon-sil. Choi's daughter Chung Yoo-ra was a member of the national equestrian team.

Former Vice Culture Minister Kim Chong arrives at the Constitutional Court in Seoul on Jan. 23, 2017, to testify at President Park Geun-hye's impeachment trial. (Yonhap)

"I was shocked at (Park's) direct mention of Chung," Kim said while testifying at the eighth hearing of the president's impeachment trial at the Constitutional Court. "I recall that (Park) ordered the establishment of programs for talented, able and gifted athletes like Chung."

The former vice minister is a key figure in the influence-peddling scandal centered on Choi and her associates. He is suspected of colluding with Choi to extort money from conglomerates in the name of donations to sports foundations under Choi's control.

Park was impeached by parliament last month over her alleged involvement in Choi's suspected crimes.

Since her impeachment, Park has also been accused of ordering the creation of a blacklist of cultural figures who were critical of the government to exempt them from state support.

The impeached president has refuted all such claims and countered that the prosecution in politically biased.

On Saturday, a special prosecutor arrested Park's former Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun on suspicion of masterminding the formation of the list.

Former vice minister Kim testified that he received direct orders from Kim Ki-choon to root out corruption in the sports industry and give regular briefings on the sector.

However, he denied reports that he gave the then chief of staff a list of senior government officials who were against the blacklist.

hague@yna.co.kr
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