The Korea Herald


Chat records show pastor sent photo of gift to first lady ahead of meeting

By Yonhap

Published : June 5, 2024 - 11:22

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Korean American pastor Choi Jae-young enters the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office in southern Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap) Korean American pastor Choi Jae-young enters the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office in southern Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

Choi Jae-young, a Korean American pastor who secretly filmed himself handing over a luxury Dior handbag to first lady Kim Keon Hee in 2022, persistently demanded a meeting with Kim by sending a photo of the gift to her via a chat app, according to records of messenger dialogue obtained by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday.

Choi sent a photo of the Dior handbag and a gift box to Kim via the messaging app KakaoTalk on Sept. 7, 2022, saying he wants to give Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) greetings to her and he bought a handbag even though he is not sure whether she likes it or not.

As the first lady did not respond, Choi sent another KakaoTalk message two days later, saying, "I'm embarrassed as you don't say anything and respond like this. I'm sad because I feel like I've become a person to watch out for."

Then, three days later, on Sept. 12, the pastor received a call from a secretary to Kim, surnamed Yoo, who said the first lady is willing to see him for a moment.

Choi's side claims that following chats with the secretary, the pastor managed to meet Kim at her cultural and arts exhibition planning company, Covana Contents, in southern Seoul at 2:20 p.m. on Sept. 13. At the end of their meeting, the first lady instructed her secretary to hand Choi a presidential Chuseok gift box and a watch.

There is also a record of messenger dialogue between Choi and Yoo in June 2022, when the pastor first met with the first lady at Covana Contents and gave her luxury perfume and cosmetics worth 1.8 million won ($1,310).

Voice of Seoul, an internet news outlet that prepared the Dior bag worth 3 million won and made public the video filmed by Choi in November last year, has reportedly presented those KakaoTalk records to the prosecution. Voice of Seoul has also filed a complaint against President Yoon Suk Yeol and the first lady on suspicions of bribery and anti-graft law violations.

Choi has been grilled by prosecutors as a suspect on charges of violation of the anti-graft law, trespassing and obstruction of official duties.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office is mulling over whether and how to question the first lady. Prosecutor General Lee One-seok said early this week, responding to a reporter's question about the need to summon the first lady, that there are no exceptions and special privileges before the law. (Yonhap)