Jail terms set for Ewha university admissions favours

Choi Soon-sil, the friend of South Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye who was impeached in March, was last week sentenced to three years in prison for soliciting university favours for her daughter.

The Seoul Central District Court on Friday found Choi guilty of ‘obstruction of duty’ by exerting influence on Ewha Womans University to give undue favours to her 21-year-old daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, using her ties with the former president, South Korea’s news agency Yonhap reported.

The court said Choi ignored the law and procedures for her daughter's university admission, and took it for granted that others should help her achieve this purpose. She committed “so many illegal activities” while pressuring Ewha Womans University to grant admission and then give her daughter good grades despite a poor attendance record at Ewha.

The prosecution in May demanded a seven-year jail term, but this is just the first of a number of corruption charges against Choi that is being heard in the courts.

Choi pleaded not guilty to the indictment, arguing that she never asked for special treatment for her daughter.

Chung's university place and her high school diploma have already been revoked, following an official investigation which found that her high school attendance and test grades had been forged.

The Seoul court also sentenced Choi Kyung-hee, the former president of the university who was forced to resign last October over the scandal, and Namkung Gon, the university's former head of admissions, who were both found to have complied with Choi Soon-sil’s requests to admit her daughter. They were sentenced to two years and 18 months in prison, respectively, on the same charges as Choi Soon-sil.

The court said evidence proved “top-down collusion” between Choi Soon-sil, South Korea’s former vice-minister for culture Kim Chong, and former Ewha Womans University president Choi Kyung-hee, which led to an “unfair instruction” to admit Choi Soon-sil’s daughter Chung Yoo-ra.

Chung, an equestrian, was admitted by the university based on her sporting achievements, but a government investigation found that the university had changed its rules on sports to benefit Chung.

The court also ruled that the ex-Ewha president neglected her duty as an educator and said she had “gravely undermined social fairness and integrity” at the institution.

Three other professors involved in the Chung debacle received suspended prison terms from the court and two other professors were fined.