Prosecutors Summon Former Head of President-Linked Foundation over Scandal

Prosecutors Summon Former Head of President-Linked Foundation over Scandal

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SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- State prosecutors on Sunday questioned the former head of a scandal-ridden foundation that has been linked to controversial figures with ties to President Park Geun-hye.

The summons by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office came just days after the president ordered a thorough "inspection and oversight" of the Mir foundation, which was established in October 2015 to promote Korean culture and sports through various events and programs.

Kim Hyung-su, a professor at Yonsei University's Graduate School of Communication and Arts, was the first director of Mir, which along with K-Sports has received a lot of negative publicity in recent weeks.

Kim is a former teacher of Cha Eun-taek, a well-known advertisement director, who is suspected of playing a critical role in setting up and managing Mir in the early stages of its formation. Cha is viewed by detractors as exercising considerable sway in the culture promotion field under the incumbent administration.

"Investigators will focus on getting details of the Mir foundation in the early stages, and see if Cha actually influenced decisions," an official said. He said the professor will be asked about Choi Soon-sil, who critics claim is a behind-the-scenes power broker.

Choi is an acquaintance of the president, being the daughter of Park's mentor Choi Tae-min. She is coincidentally the ex-wife of Park's former secretary Chung Yun-hoi.

Both Cha and Choi are not officially linked to Mir or K-Sports, which is also embroiled in the scandal. The two, however, are under suspicion of actually running the foundations.

The two foundations have been created to promote public interest in cultural, arts and sports programs. They have received investment worth 80 billion won (US$70.3 million) from the country's largest conglomerates.

Besides Kim, a director for K-Sports, government officials involved in giving authorization to Mir and K-Sports are being questioned as well.

"The focus of the probe will be centered on whether Mir and K-Sports provided funds to Choi who set up a special company with the aim of helping athletes in unpopular sporting events," a source said.

Both foundations are being probed as opposition parties and progressive civic groups critical of the incumbent government claimed the foundations are not being run in a transparent manner and argued the funds created went to Choi.

Related to the scandal the main opposition party said over the weekend it will slash state funding linked to culture convergence belt projects being undertaken by Cha as well as other projects connected to Mir and K-Sports for 2017.

The convergence belt project received 90.4 billion won in state funding this year, with Seoul asking for 127.8 billion won for the new year.

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