Park visited by 'shadowy' doctors

Opposition People's Party lawmaker Lee Yong Joo showing pictures of President Park Geun Hye, taken in May, during a parliamentary hearing into a graft scandal yesterday.
Opposition People's Party lawmaker Lee Yong Joo showing pictures of President Park Geun Hye, taken in May, during a parliamentary hearing into a graft scandal yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

S. Korean President had placenta extract injections, inquiry hears

SEOUL • South Korea's embattled President was visited by "shadowy" doctors who injected her with human placenta extract, a parliamentary inquiry into a growing corruption scandal heard yesterday.

The two-month hearing is seeking to get to the bottom of a scandal that triggered a series of nationwide protests and led to lawmakers voting to impeach President Park Geun Hye last Friday.

Ms Park stands accused of colluding with her longtime friend Choi Soon Sil to strong-arm large companies into making donations worth tens of millions of dollars.

The scandal has raised questions about the extent of the friend's influence on the President's personal life, as it emerged that Ms Park had sought treatment from doctors who were not part of her official medical staff but had ties with Choi.

The two doctors - who have treated Choi for years - testified that they had visited Ms Park at her residence multiple times, often without the presence or knowledge of the presidential medical team.

One of them said he had given Ms Park a series of injections of human placenta extracts and vitamins, widely used as an anti-ageing treatment or for detoxification in South Korea.

SERIOUS LAPSE

It is a very grave problem that doctors who were not named as part of the official medical team entered the Blue House and had physical access to the President.

A SOUTH KOREAN LAWMAKER, describing the doctors as "shadowy".

He later became a member of the presidential medical team.

The other doctor, who runs a plastic surgery clinic in the affluent Seoul district of Gangnam, testified that he had visited Ms Park multiple times since 2013 to treat her "skin troubles".

But he denied having performed cosmetic procedures on Ms Park as lawmakers grilled him over past photos showing small bruises on the President's face, which he said were possibly traces of wrinkle filler needles.

A former chief of the presidential medical team told a television station that he had turned down Ms Park's request for him to inject her with human placenta extract because he had doubts about its medical benefit, before he was dismissed in 2014.

"I heard rumours that some (doctors) were visiting the presidential Blue House in the evening... but did not take them seriously back then," he told lawmakers yesterday.

Details of the President's health condition are state secrets.

"It is a very grave problem that doctors who were not named as part of the official medical team entered the Blue House and had physical access to the President," one lawmaker said, describing them as "shadowy doctors".

Another lawmaker pointed out that the pair had gone through minimal security checks when visiting Ms Park repeatedly.

"Our head of state was left completely vulnerable... as the official presidential security protocol was ruined by her private relationship," he said.

Choi, the daughter of a shady late religious figure who was also close to Ms Park, is known to have wielded enormous power over the President - from influencing her daily wardrobe choices to nomination of top officials. Choi is awaiting trial on charges of fraud and abuse of power.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Park visited by 'shadowy' doctors'. Print Edition | Subscribe