Now, Choi's daughter under scanner for preferential treatment in expanding South Korea corruption probe

Ms Chung and her teammates receiving gold medals at the Asian Games in Incheon in 2014. She was admitted to the prestigious Ewha Womans University on the strength of the medal. Critics accused the university of giving her preferential treatment because of her mother. PHOTO: FEDERATION EQUESTRE INTERNATIONALE
Choi Soon Sil is escorted into the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office in Seoul on Nov 3, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Ms Chung Yoo Ra, the daughter of Choi Soon Sil, is under increasing scrutiny in South Korea, with prosecutors and educational authorities widening their probe into allegations that she received preferential treatment from schools, the equestrian league, and corporate sponsors.

Ms Chung, who is currently overseas, is the only child between Ms Choi, President Park Geun Hye's long-time friend accused of meddling in state affairs, and Mr Jeong Yun-hoe, Ms Park's former chief of staff.

The Ministry of Education said on Monday (Nov 7) that it would extend a special inspection for four days into the allegations that Ewha Womans University manipulated the admissions process and grading system for Ms Chung.

The inspectors dispatched by the ministry are set to call in Mr Namgung Kon, chief of admissions, who allegedly ordered faculty members to select a student who brought a "gold medal" to the admissions interview.

Ms Chung was reportedly the only one wearing a gold medal - which she won at the 2014 Asian Games - at the interview.

The school is suspected of adding horseback riding to a list of categories open to student athletes in 2014, right before Ms Chung's admission. It also allegedly stretched its own rules to consider Ms Chung's medal even though she won it four days after the application deadline.

The ministry is also looking into whether professors gave her overly generous grades despite her not turning in assignments and missing most of her classes.

The school also allegedly changed its school policy to grant student athletes grades if they submit documents as evidence.

Starting on Monday, the ministry is set to grill professors suspected of giving Ms Chung preferential treatment. "The result will be released as soon as the inspection is over," said an official from the ministry.

A separate on-site inspection by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education into the alleged special favors for Ms Chung widened to her elementary and middle schools, which are suspected of receiving kickbacks from her mother.

The education office is slated to release an interim result on Tuesday (Nov 8).

Ms Chung's school, Chungdam High School, is accused of creating a programme in 2011 to accept dressage athletes, right before her admission in 2012, in what many critics see as an attempt to find a way to accept Ms Chung.

The focus is on whether she turned up to enough classes in order to meet graduation criteria. Under the current law, she was required to attend at least two-thirds of classes to graduate from the schools.

She allegedly attended her high school for only 28 out of 193 days in her senior year.

There is a possibility that her graduation from high school as well as her entrance into Ewha Womans University will be cancelled if her records of attendance prove to be fabricated.

The prosecution also continued to investigate allegations that Ms Chung received special treatment from Korea's governing body for dressage.

It summoned former and current executive directors from the Korea Equestrian Federation on Saturday (Nov 5) to investigate whether the organisation pulled strings to have Ms Chung sponsored by Samsung Electronics and qualify for the national team for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Prosecutors earlier found that Samsung Electronics last year transferred some 2.8 million euros (S$4.31 million) to Core Sports, a company in Germany established by Ms Choi and Ms Chung. Some of the money was used to buy a horse for Ms Chung and to cover training expenses in Germany.

According to a news report by TV network SBS, the government allegedly promised support for Samsung in return for the firm financially supporting Ms Choi and her daughter.

A Samsung official involved in the suspicions was questioned last week. The company said that it would fully cooperate with the prosecution in the investigation.

Nearly 600 people from the sports industry declared a "state of crisis" through a statement on Monday, saying that the industry has been abused.

They called for an extensive investigation into Ms Chung, as well as Ms Choi's niece, Ms Chang Si Ho, who was also a national dressage rider, and other allegations that Ms Choi peddled influence over projects for the 2018 PyongChang Winter Olympics.

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