Apologies for the late content; it’s been a busy day culminating in a vet visit for our dog–she needed to get pre-op blood work done before she gets…fixed (don’t tell her). In lieu of anything new and exciting from me, I’m going to steer you to what is honestly one of the nuttiest stories I’ve read in a long time. Here’s a little background: the President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, is embroiled in a major political scandal at the moment. People are protesting in the streets, cabinet ministers are resigning, and today, in an effort to get control of things, Park fired her prime minister. I know virtually nothing about South Korean politics, but I guess a more popular prime minister might help…a little. It’s hard to see how it could help that much, though, because this scandal is all about President Park.
The story revolves around a woman named Choi Soon-sil, who is apparently a long-time…something of President Park. I guess “confidante” might be the right word, except that there’s a growing amount of troubling evidence to suggest that a better word might be “guru,” only it seems unfair to decent gurus to use that word in this context. Or “Rasputin,” which is what she’s being called by some in the press. Back in the 1970s, Park became a devotee of what sure looks to be a cult headed by Choi’s father, and he used that connection to her (Park is the daughter of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee) to make himself quite wealthy. When he died, Choi assumed both the cult and her father’s power over Park, only when Choi started leveraging her influence over President Park in order to enrich herself, it stopped being a weird cult thing and became a potential state crime.
Choi was detained by authorities a couple of days ago, and the revelations about her relationship to Park have been coming fast and furious. Choi edited speeches, Choi looked at documents, Choi oversaw parts of Park’s inauguration ceremony, Choi…shook down a bunch of South Korean companies for cash, throwing Park’s name around to do it. That last one is what got her caught, but the revelations about all the other stuff on top of that is what has Koreans in the streets.
I’m just giving you the quick summary here, but for a much deeper and, like I said above, way crazier look at this story, you need to read this description at a blog called “Ask a Korean!” Seriously, it is bonkers:
Choi Tae-min met Park Geun-hye for the first time in 1975, when Park was 23. Park Geun-hye had just lost her mother, who was assassinated by a North Korean spy. (The spy was aiming for Park’s father, the dictator Park Chung-hee, but missed and killed the first lady instead.) Shortly after the assassination, the elder Choi sent several letters to Park Geun-hye, claiming that the soul of Park’s mother visited him, and Park could hear from her mother through him. Park invited Choi Tae-min to the presidential residence, and the elder Choi told her there that Park’s mother did not truly die, but merely moved out of the way to open the path for Park Geun-hye. This was the beginning of the unholy relationship between Park Geun-hye and Choi’s family, which included Choi Tae-min’s daughter Soon-sil.
Once the elder Choi won Park Geun-hye’s confidence, he leveraged the relationship to amass a fortune. Choi set up a number of foundations, with Park Geun-hye as the nominal head, and peddled influence. The influence-peddling and bribery became so severe that the dictator Park Chung-hee summoned Choi Tae-min to personally interrogate him. In the interrogation session and thereafter, Park Geun-hye would fiercely defend Choi, her spiritual guide and connection to her dead mother. In a Wikileaks cable from 2007 when Park Geun-hye first ran for president, the U.S. Ambassador for Korea noted: “Rumors are rife that the late pastor had complete control over Park’s body and soul during her formative years and that his children accumulated enormous wealth as a result.”
Choi Tae-min’s high times ended on October 26, 1979, when his patron lost her father in another assassination. (Fittingly, Park Geun-hye’s own downfall began around October 26 of this year.) The assassin Kim Jae-gyu, then-head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, said one of the reasons why he decided to assassinate his boss was because of the toxic relationship between Choi Tae-min and Park Geun-hye. Although Park Chung-hee was fully aware of Choi Tae-min’s grafting, the elder Park let it continue for the sake of his daughter. Kim believed that this was another indication that Park Chung-hee was losing his marbles.
I know I always say “go read this,” but, seriously, go read this. You’d think it was pulled out of a novel.
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