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(2nd LD) Independent counsel team raids home of former top presidential aide

2016/12/26 08:51

(ATTN: ADDS details in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) -- Special prosecutors raided the home of a former top presidential aide Monday as part of their investigation into a corruption scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidante.

The team visited the home of Kim Ki-choon, 77, who served as presidential chief of staff from 2013 to 2015.

He is suspected of overlooking and even protecting the confidante Choi Soon-sil as she meddled in state affairs without any government post.

The team said it raided Kim's home in central Seoul around 7 a.m., securing documents related with his duty at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Sources said the team is also investigating homes of several figures at South Korea's cultural ministry, as Kim is suspected of ordering the ministry to layoff six high-ranking officials, which can be charged with abuse of power.

While three of them actually left the ministry, observers suspect the request came in line with the steps to establish the Mir and K-Sports Foundations.

The two foundations, virtually controlled by Choi, collected large-sum donations from local conglomerates. Investigators suspect Choi attempted to take control of the foundations' assets.

Kim Chong, a former vice culture minister under custody, is also suspected of requesting the former top presidential aide provide a favor to an executive at the ministry who will be designated to the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympics.

Kim Ki-choon has a long history in Korean politics. He served Park Chung-hee, who was president for 18 years after seizing power in a military coup in 1961. Park, the father of President Park Geun-hye, was assassinated in 1979.

Kim's close ties with the Park family led to allegations that he was aware of Choi's meddling in state affairs.

While Kim has insisted he does not know Choi personally, he later revised the statement after the parliamentary committee came up with evidence that showed he was at least aware of the confidante.

Former top presidential aide Kim Ki-choon (Yonhap) Former top presidential aide Kim Ki-choon (Yonhap)