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(2nd LD) Park confidante gets 3-yr jail term for soliciting favors for her daughter

All Headlines 14:04 June 23, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details on Choi's reaction in para 8; CLARIFIES 4th para)

SEOUL, June 23 (Yonhap) -- The friend of former President Park Geun-hye was sentenced to three years in prison for soliciting academic favors for her daughter on Friday, the first ruling handed down for her involvement in a massive corruption scandal that led to Park's ouster.

The Seoul Central District Court found Choi Soon-sil guilty of obstruction of duty by exerting influence on Ewha Womans University to give undue favors to her 21-year-old daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, using her ties with the former president. The prosecution had demanded a seven-year jail term for Choi in May.

The court also sentenced Choi Kyung-hee, ex-president of the university, and Namkung Gon, the university's former head of admissions, who were both found to have complied with her requests, to two years and 1 1/2 years in prison, respectively, on the same charges as Choi.

Seven others involved in the crime were also given prison terms or a suspended jail sentence.

Choi has pleaded not guilty, arguing that she never asked for special treatment for her daughter.

But the court acknowledged that Choi ignored the law and procedures for her daughter's success, and that she took it for granted that others should help her achieve this purpose.

"She committed too much wrongdoing to consider the actions were out of love as a mother who wants the best for her child."

Choi remained calm and unfazed as the judge read out the sentence. She left the court without saying a word.

The prosecution indicted Choi for colluding with university officials in 2015 in getting her daughter accepted into Ewha as a gifted athlete. At the time, Chung was an equestrian athlete.

The 61-year-old is also accused of demanding professors give her daughter grades for papers Chung never submitted or exams that she never took.

The court ruling is the first made for one of the many charges Choi faces in connection with the influence-peddling scandal. Her charges include taking bribes worth at least 7.8 billion won (US$6.85 million) from Samsung. Park and Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong are also detained and facing trial.

The court also ruled the ex-Ewha president neglected her duty as an educator and that she has gravely undermined social fairness and integrity of the institution.

The scandal, which broke in September last year, triggered weeks of protest rallies calling for Park's impeachment. The disgraced leader was removed from office upon a Constitutional Court ruling on March 10.

This file photo, taken on June 20, 2017, shows Choi Soon-sil entering a courthouse for a trial over the influence-peddling scandal. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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