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Daughter of South Korea's 'Rasputin' returns to face questioning

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The equestrian daughter of South Korea's "Rasputin", whose lavish lifestyle in Europe was allegedly funded by millions of dollars in bribes, returned home Wednesday to face questioning by prosecutors.

[Seoul] The equestrian daughter of South Korea's "Rasputin", whose lavish lifestyle in Europe was allegedly funded by millions of dollars in bribes, returned home Wednesday to face questioning by prosecutors.

Chung Yoo Ra, 20, is the daughter of Choi Soon Sil, the close confidante of impeached ex-president Park Geun Hye.

Ms Choi - dubbed "Rasputin" for her strong influence over Ms Park - is on trial along with the ex-president over an influence-peddling scandal that has rocked the country.

Prosecutors say cash for Ms Chung's equestrian training came from electronics giant Samsung, which had handed over the money as part of an attempt to curry favour with her powerful and influential mother.

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Ms Chung, who was arrested by Danish police in January for overstaying her visa, dropped her appeal against extradition from Denmark last week.

She was arrested on a Korean Air flight from Amsterdam early Wednesday and was escorted off the plane at Incheon by a team of prosecutors to face a handful of journalists and television cameras.

"I returned because my baby has been alone for so long," Ms Chung said.

"I thought it was best to tell my side of the story and resolve the misunderstanding."

The 20-year-old said she had no knowledge about the "special treatment" she allegedly received, and added: "I know nothing about what went on between my mother and the former president, but I feel I was wronged".

Ms Park was kicked out of office in March amid public disgust at the influence of money on South Korean politics.

Ms Park and Ms Choi are on trial for allegedly accepting or seeking millions of dollars in bribes from the country's huge conglomerates, including Samsung.

Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong is being tried separately while Shin Dong Bin - the chairman of retail giant Lotte, the South's fifth-biggest conglomerate - also stands accused.

The spiralling investigation has now caught up with Ms Chung, who was also allegedly granted a place at the prestigious Ewha Women's University and given top grades thanks to her mother's intervention.

In highly competitive South Korea, admission to one of a handful of elite universities is seen as vital to a student's future.

Following months of protest by Ewha students, the school cancelled Ms Chung's admission.

"I never attended classes so I accept the cancellation of my admission," Ms Chung said.

"I don't even know what my major is and I never wanted to go to university so I have nothing to say about it but I'm sorry," she added, before being taken to Seoul Prosecutors' Office for questioning.

Prosecutors said Wednesday they intend to seek a seven-year jail term for Ms Choi for her involvement in Ms Chung's illicit admission, while they said the former dean of Ewha - who has been arrested - could serve five years in prison.

Cosy and corrupt ties between South Korea's business and political elites have endured for decades. But the trial of Ms Park and Ms Choi could shed new light on the links between Ms Park and the bosses of the family-run conglomerates that dominate Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

AFP

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