Former Pyeongchang 2018 President Cho Yang-ho has “admitted” that he was put under pressure to step down before his dramatic resignation from the role in May, reports have claimed.
The next edition of the Winter Olympics in South Korea has been dragged into a wider political scandal engulfing the country’s Government with the woman at the center of it – Choi Soon-sil – having alleged links to Cho.
Sixty-year-old Choi has been unmasked as an adviser of South Korean President Park Geun-hye who, despite having no official Government role, was reportedly able “exert undue influence” on policy making.
Park apologized last week for letting Choi help prepare speeches early in her tenure, but it is also alleged that she and other members of her family had a “far deeper influence” across economic, foreign and defense policy.
They are also accused of “profiting from related business ventures”, although Park has denied suggestions that Choi, who has been placed under arrest facing charges of fraud, is linked to a cult.
Claims then emerged yesterday which suggested that Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok, a supposed associate of Choi, demanded Cho step down from his Pyeongchang 2018 post.
This is reportedly because of his refusal to sign a construction contract with the Choi-founded Blue K company.
Now, the Korean Herald has reported an admission from Cho that “90 percent” of the speculation over the possible influence of Choi was correct.
According to the newspaper, he gave no further details.
Cho, the business leader who also chaired the successful Pyeongchang bid for the Olympics in 2011, resigned with immediate effect on May 3 to hand Games organizers a serious blow to their preparations.
He said he was leaving to focus on stabilizing financial issues within the Hanjin Shipping company, where he is chairman.
It has been suggested that Hanjin is connected with the crisis, with allegations Choi may have been behind the Governmental decision to declare it an insolvent company.
According to Joongang Ilbo, the Korea Development Bank was planning to extend a bailout measure to Hanjin in March before the process was stopped by an “invisible hand.”
This followed previous allegations that Choi’s daughter had sought to manage the Gangneung Oval venue due to be used for speed skating at the Olympics.
Cho took up the Pyeongchang post in July 2014 after the resignation of Kim Jin-sun, on the grounds that new leadership was required to complete preparations for the Games.
He was replaced as President by Lee Hee-beom on the same day as his resignation.
The wider crisis looks likely to topple Park’s tenure as President, with reports suggesting her approval rating has plummeted to as low as five per cent.
It marks the second successive occasion where the President of the Olympic host nation has been embroiled in a political scandal ahead of the Games.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office ahead of Rio 2016, after being accused of manipulating the budget when successfully standing for re-election in 2014.
By Dan Palmer
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.