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Independent counsel team raids home of former top presidential aide

Special prosecutors raided the homes of a former top presidential aide and the cultural minister on Monday as part of an ongoing investigation into a corruption scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidante.

The team raided around 10 places including the home of Kim Ki-choon, 77, who served as presidential chief of staff from 2013 to 2015, as well as Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Cho Yoon-sun. The team also confiscated data from the ministry in Sejong, 121 kilometers south of Seoul.

Kim is suspected of overlooking and even protecting the president's 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 searching the 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 viewed as 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 and Cho are currently accused of writing a so-called "blacklist" of cultural figures. There has been an allegation that the government had a list of artists who participated in anti-government statements. Cho has been denying such suspicions, claiming there are no such lists.

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. (Yonhap)