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Woman Embroiled in South Korean Presidential Scandal Released

A South Korean court has rejected a warrant request by prosecutors to arrest Chung Yoo-ra, 20, after she was detained over a corruption scandal.
Image: Court Rejects Warrant to Arrest Chung Yoo-ra
Chung Yoo-ra (C) speaks to reporters after a judge rejected a warrant for her arrest at the Seoul Central District Court on June 3, 2017 in Seoul.Yonhap / EPA
/ Source: Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — A 20-year-old woman who was detained by South Korean authorities over a massive corruption scandal that centers on her jailed mother and the country's ousted president has been released.

The Seoul Central District Court on Saturday rejected a warrant request by prosecutors to formally arrest Chung Yoo-ra, who was extradited from Denmark on Wednesday. It's difficult to see Chung as a threat to destroy evidence when prosecutors had already gathered the essential evidence they need to push ahead with their investigation, the court said.

Chung Yoo-ra (C) speaks to reporters after a judge rejected a warrant for her arrest at the Seoul Central District Court on June 3, 2017 in Seoul.Yonhap / EPA

Meeting reporters after her release, Chung bowed and apologized to the public for "causing concerns" and promised to continue cooperating with prosecutors. But she denied breaking any laws and repeated that she didn't have specific knowledge about her mother's alleged crimes.

"There are a lot of things I don't know," said Chung, an equestrian athlete and single mother of an infant son. "There are things I can't answer accurately because I don't have anything to say about it, and I am sorry for that."

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Prosecutors have grilled Chung over various allegations, including that she, despite questionable qualifications, was given admission to a prestigious university and received academic favors from the school because of her mother's presidential ties.

Prosecutors also see Chung as a key figure in the suspected bribery connections between former President Park Geun-hye and corporate giant Samsung. Park was removed from office and arrested in March, and is on trial over a broad range of charges, including bribery, extortion and abuse of power.

Chung Yoo-ra competes during the equestrian dressage team competition for the 17th Asian Games on September 20, 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. FileLee Sang-hak / AP File

According to prosecutors, Park colluded with Chung's mother, Choi Soon-sil, to take about $26 million in bribes from Samsung and was promised tens of millions of dollars more from Samsung and other companies. The money prosecutors see as bribes include $7 million that Samsung provided to a sports consulting firm controlled by Choi that financed Chung's equestrian training in Germany.

The scandal surrounding Park and Choi has led to the indictments of dozens, including former government officials, presidential aides and billionaire Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong, who is under suspicion of sponsoring Choi's family in exchange for business favors from Park's administration.

Chung told reporters after her return home that she didn't know any key details about the corruption scandal or her mother's dealings with Park. Park, Choi and Lee have all denied the bribery accusations in court.