Artistic director charged over corruption scandal

Cha Eun Taek, seen here before his arrest earlier this month, is said to have used his ties with President Park Geun Hye's friend to win contracts from public and private agencies.
Cha Eun Taek, seen here before his arrest earlier this month, is said to have used his ties with President Park Geun Hye's friend to win contracts from public and private agencies.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SEOUL • A prominent K-pop music video director was charged yesterday in relation to a corruption scandal rocking South Korea and engulfing President Park Geun Hye.

Cha Eun Taek, who has worked with Gangnam Style star Psy and boyband megastars Big Bang, used his ties to a confidante of Ms Park's to win lucrative projects from state agencies and private firms, prosecutors said.

That confidante - Choi Soon Sil - has been labelled Ms Park's eminence grise, a shadowy figure who is believed to have leveraged her close relationship with the President to extract more than US$60 million (S$85.7 million) from top firms, including Samsung. Prosecutors said Ms Park even ordered her former economic adviser to help Cha pressure officials and private firms so that he would win contracts.

Cha, 46, has been charged with abuse of power, coercion and embezzlement and becomes the latest public figure to be embroiled in the snowballing scandal.

Choi, 60, is accused of meddling in a wide range of state affairs including the country's preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Prosecutors last week formally charged her with abuse of power and coercion, saying Ms Park was a "co-culprit" who had colluded with Choi to strong-arm top firms into giving cash to non-profit foundations that Choi controlled.

Ms Park - now the first South Korean president to become a criminal suspect while in office - has rejected a series of requests from prosecutors to answer their questions.

As a sitting president, Ms Park cannot be charged with a criminal offence except insurrection or treason, but she can be investigated and potentially charged once her term is over.

Ms Park is facing growing public calls to resign and a push by lawmakers to impeach her, with her job approval ratings diving to a record low of 4 per cent.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Artistic director charged over corruption scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe