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(LEAD) Court to decide on arrest of ex-university chief suspected of favoritism

All News 15:09 January 24, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with Choi's lawyer's remarks in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court was set to decide Tuesday on the arrest of a former university chief suspected of giving admissions and grading favors to the daughter of President Park Geun-hye's close friend.

Choi Kyung-hee, president of Ewha Womans University from 2014 to 2016, is accused of helping Chung Yoo-ra gain admission to the school despite her alleged ineligibility.

An independent counsel probe has been under way to determine the truth behind allegations that Chung's mother, Choi Soon-sil, abused her ties to the president to peddle influence and win favors. The scandal led to the president's impeachment last month.

With a decision by the Seoul Central District Court later in the day, the investigation team led by Special Counsel Park Young-soo will wrap up the first stage of its probe into the alleged irregularities at Ewha. The team has already placed other Ewha officials, including Kim Kyung-sook, former dean of its College of Science and Industry Convergence, and professor Lyou Chul-gyun, under arrest for further questioning over their alleged special treatment of Chung.

The counsel sought Choi Kyung-hee's arrest also on suspicion of perjury after she denied being closely acquainted with Chung's mother during a parliamentary hearing.

Her lawyer Han Boo-hwan vehemently denied the allegations.

"She didn't know who Chung Yoo-ra was. (The allegations) were all made up later," he told reporters after the court questioned Choi to review the legality of her detention.

He claimed Chung's special treatment began with Kim, who received orders from Kim Chong, then-vice minister for culture and sports. The two were already acquainted, he added.

Choi Kyung-hee, former president of Ewha Womans University, is surrounded by reporters as she arrives at the Seoul Central District Court on Jan. 24, 2017, ahead of a court decision on her arrest. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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