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Did Park's confidante appoint health-welfare minister, too?Special counsel exposes triangular connection backing top medical policymaker
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2017.05.02 11:46
  • Updated 2017.05.19 11:49
  • comments 0

Various circumstances indicate Choi Soon-sil, the 40-year-long confidante of former President Park Geun-hye, has virtually appointed the minister of health and welfare, too, according to judiciary sources Tuesday.

Suh Chang-suk서창석, head of Seoul National University Hospital서울대병원, was also deeply involved in the unjustifiable intervention in personnel affairs, stirring up a controversy.

At the hearing of Lee Im-soon이임순, Choi’s family doctor, on April 24, the special prosecutor who investigated the “Choi Soon-sil최순실-gate” disclosed Suh’s statement detailing the process of appointing minister of health and welfare보건복지부 장관Chung Chin-youb정진엽. Lee is now on trial on a charge of perjury at the parliamentary hearing on the Park-Choi scandal.

Suh Chang-Suk (left), president of Seoul National University Hospital, testified he had recommended Professor Chung Chin-youb (right), president of Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, as the minister of health and welfare at the request of Choi Soon-sil’s family doctor.

According to the independent counsel team, Suh said Lee, Choi’s family doctor, had “asked me to recommend the minister of health and welfare, minister of food and drug safety식품의약품안전처장, ambassadors to Vietnam and Myanmar, and presidents of Kyungpook National University and Chungbuk National University.

Suh recommended Professor Chung Chin-youb, the then president of Seoul National University Bundang Hospital분당서울대병원(SNUBH), as the health-welfare minister, and Chung became the minister. Seo had served as chief planning and control officer under Chung when the latter led SNUBH from 2008-2013.

Suh admitted to the independent counsel team that Lee had also intervened in his appointment to the president of the Seoul National University Hospital and the President’s doctor.

“Lee asked me whether I had the intention to challenge the presidency of SNUH,” Suh was quoted as saying in the statement. “When I asked back whether it was the President’s plan to replace the SNUH head, Lee said, ‘yes.’”

Suh became the physician for former President Park in September 2014, and Chung took the post of health-welfare minister in August 2015. Suh’s appointment to the presidential doctor drew responses of astonishment from the medical community, as he belonged to SNUBH at the time, a regional chapter of SNUH. Minister Chung was also a figure whose name had never been bandied for the post.

The suspicions about Choi pulling strings behind the emergence of doctors hailing from SNUBH were raised during the National Assembly hearings of the Choi Sun-sil gate in December. Rep. Sohn Hye-won of the opposition Democratic Party of Korea made such allegations, saying, “It is important to probe ‘medical monopoly’ as part of investigating the Park-Choi scandal. Notably, circumstantial evidence point to the intervention by hidden political heavyweight in the course of advances by people from SNUBH.”

However, Minister Chung denied such suspicions about his relationship with political bigwigs, during a meeting with reporters before the New Year policy briefing in January. “I did my best for the development of the hospital,” Chung said. “There was nothing else.”


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