Key Figure in South Korean Leader’s Troubles: A Puppy
SEOUL, South Korea — Did a fight over a puppy lead to the vote to impeach South Korea’s leader? A whistle-blower whose account has riveted South Koreans says it did.
The corruption scandal that engulfed the president, Park Geun-hye, was rooted in her friendship with Choi Soon-sil, her secretive adviser and friend for 40 years. Ms. Choi has been indicted on charges of extorting tens of millions of dollars from big businesses, and prosecutors have identified Ms. Park as a criminal accomplice, a first for a South Korean president.
将朴槿惠(Park Geun-hye)总统吞噬的腐败丑闻，源于她和她的秘密顾问兼40年的老友崔顺实(Choi Soon-sil)之间的友谊。崔顺实因涉嫌从一些大企业那里敲诈数千万美元而遭到了起诉，而朴槿惠已被检方列为共犯——韩国的总统以前从未遭受过这样的指控。
Ko Young-tae, the whistle-blower, said at a parliamentary hearing this week that he got into an argument with Ms. Choi over walking her daughter’s puppy one day in 2014. He said Ms. Choi became upset when she found the dog alone at his home.
“I didn’t get her call because I was out golfing,” he said. “She was angry that I left the dog alone, and we had a fight.”
Mr. Ko, 40, a former Asian Games gold medal fencer, said afterward he decided to expose Ms. Choi’s ties with Ms. Park to local news media.
Mr. Ko had apparently videotaped Ms. Choi in 2014 giving orders to two presidential aides as though they were servants. In one scene that went viral, one of the aides wiped his smartphone on his shirt before handing it reverentially to Ms. Choi. The footage, aired in October on TV Chosun, left little doubt about Ms. Choi’s influence over Ms. Park.
Mr. Ko also was said to have an advance copy of Ms. Park’s itinerary for an overseas trip that Ms. Choi had received; it showed that the president had worn certain colors on certain days based on Ms. Choi’s recommendations.
Mr. Ko has become a hero to many in South Korea. “You opened Pandora’s box,” Sohn Hye-won, an opposition lawmaker, said during the hearing.
Even before he gave his account, Mr. Ko had emerged as an intriguing figure in Ms. Park’s corruption scandal, which has involved as many plot twists as the best of Korean soap operas. Local media said he was a former employee at a Seoul “host bar,” where male prostitutes cater to female clients, before he befriended Ms. Choi, 60.
In his testimony, Mr. Ko denied that he and Ms. Choi had been a couple.
He said a friend introduced him to Ms. Choi in 2012, when he was running a handbag and clothing company called Villomillo. Ms. Choi ordered 100 pieces of clothes and 40 handbags made of ostrich skin and crocodile leather. The items were delivered to Ms. Park, who was later seen toting Villomillo handbags.
(Ms. Park’s office said she paid for the items, denying opposition lawmakers’ allegations that they were bribes from Ms. Choi.)
Mr. Ko said he handed over his video footage to TV Chosun last year, but it was not broadcast until Oct. 25.
A day earlier, on Oct. 24, the rival cable channel JTBC broadcast what was considered the biggest media scoop connected to the scandal. One of its reporters obtained a discarded tablet computer that it said had belonged to Ms. Choi.
Files discovered there included drafts of 44 speeches and statements that Ms. Park had given between 2012 and 2014, as a candidate and later as president. Many passages were marked in red.
“The only thing Ms. Choi did well was to edit President Park’s speeches,” Mr. Ko told JTBC in October. (Ms. Park has since acknowledged that she asked for Ms. Choi’s feedback on her speech drafts.)
South Koreans were outraged that Ms. Park let Ms. Choi, who had no experience in government, edit some of her most important speeches. The allegation was particularly damning because Ms. Park was known for shunning one-on-one meetings with her own official aides.
Mr. Ko said Ms. Choi’s behavior made him believe she was the most powerful person in Ms. Park’s government.
“She insulted me and acted as if her underlings were subhuman,” Mr. Ko said.