'Equestrian princess' arrested in Denmark over South Korea graft scandal

Chung Yoo-ra will face extradition proceedings in Denmark after Danish police arrested her on an Interpol request from Seoul. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

Chung Yoo-ra will face extradition proceedings in Denmark after Danish police arrested her on an Interpol request from Seoul. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

The daughter of one of the central figures in a South Korean influence-peddling scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment will face extradition proceedings in Denmark after Danish police arrested her on an Interpol request from Seoul.

Danish police said they had held Chung Yoo-ra on Sunday evening in the northern Danish city of Aalborg after identifying her as someone “wanted by the police for extensive financial-economic crime in South Korea”.

Chung, a 20-year-old equestrian competitor, is the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Park accused of colluding with the president to pressure businesses to contribute to non-profit foundations.

The scandal has drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets of Seoul for weekly demonstrations and could result in Park, 64, becoming the first democratically elected South Korean leader to leave office early.

Yonhap News Agency later reported that South Korean police had already requested Chung’s extradition. The two countries have an extradition treaty.

Chung trains for equestrian events in Germany. South Korea’s foreign ministry had been working to invalidate Chung’s passport and authorities had asked German prosecutors for information about her whereabouts and assets.

Park, whose father ruled South Korea for 18 years after seizing power in a 1961 coup, has denied wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in her ties with Choi, who is facing her own trial. Choi also denies wrongdoing.

Park was impeached by parliament on Dec. 9. The Constitutional Court must confirm or overturn the impeachment and has months to decide.

As part of their investigation, South Korean prosecutors are trying to ascertain whether Samsung Electronics sought favours from Choi and Park in return for funding some of their initiatives. An element of the investigation has been Samsung’s sponsorship of Chung’s riding career.

Will ‘fully co-operate’

Chung told Danish police she was staying in Denmark for equestrian-related work. She said she was aware that the South Korean authorities wanted her for questioning and that her mother had been arrested in the same case, according to Danish police.

A Volkswagen vehicle and horse-riding equipment were found at the house where Chung and her party were arrested, according to South Korea’s JTBC TV channel.

Lee Kyung-jae, a lawyer representing both Choi and Chung, said the daughter would cooperate.

“When Chung Yoo-ra returns I will ensure that she fully cooperates with the special prosecution’s investigation,” the lawyer told the Yonhap News Agency.

Danish police said three other adults and a child were with Chung at time of the arrest but said none of them were wanted by the police. Chung is known to have a young son.

Chung would appear before a Danish court on Monday, with prosecutors requesting detention until formalities around the extradition had been completed.

Chung’s arrest was first reported by the JTBC channel, which said on its website that its journalists had alerted Danish police to Chung’s presence there. Danish police confirmed the arrest happened after a tip-off from a South Korean journalist.

A video on JTBC‘s website showed a person identified as Chung in a heavy hooded parka being led to a police car. The person’s face could not be seen.

Chung became a figure of public ire in South Korea last year after it emerged that she had received special treatment from the prestigious Ewha Womans University, where her admission was subsequently cancelled.

News of Chung’s arrest came a day after Park broke a month-long silence over her alleged role in the corruption scandal, publicly denying charges of wrongdoing and describing the accusations against her as fabricated and false.

 

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