Girl talk: Imagine what Hillary Clinton and South Korea’s Park Geun-Hye discussed in private

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DonKirk31By Donald Kirk

[Editors’ note: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, the country’s first female president, is facing her biggest political crisis since coming to power in 2013. A close female friend, Choi Soon-Sil, 60, is accused of selling influence. She is the daughter of late religious leader Choi Tae-Min, who befriended Park after her mother was killed in 1974 taking a bullet meant for her father, then president Park Chung-Hee. Choi claimed that the late first lady had appeared to him in a dream, asking him to help her traumatized daughter, then 23. He became a longtime mentor to Ms. Park, who forged a strong bond with his daughter that endured after Choi ‘s death in 1994.]


Hillary Clinton knows President Park Geun-Hye pretty well. They met whenever Hillary visited Seoul as secretary of state or Ms. Park went to Washington. They have no doubt talked about what they would do about North Korea.

Park Geun-Hye, second from left, with Choi Tae-min, right, in Seoul on June 21, 1975. In 1974, her mother was killed by a pro-North Korean gunmen aiming at her father, President Park Chung-Hee, who was assassinated in 1979. / Yonhap
Park Geun-Hye, second from left, with Choi Tae-Min, right, in Seoul on June 21, 1975. In 1974, her mother was killed by a pro-North Korean gunmen aiming at her father, President Park Chung-Hee, who was assassinated in 1979. / Yonhap

Hillary had to be pledging undying U.S. support ― “no daylight between us” ― to show U.S. solidarity (“No daylight between us” is the D.C. equivalent of the Chinese expression, “As close as the lips to the teeth”).
You have to wonder, though, if Clinton and Park ever got down to one subject they really have in common. Hillary, when Park knew her, was emailing relatives, friends, colleagues, diplomatic underlings, everyone, on her own private email server.

Park was emailing here and there too, notably to a woman no one in Korea outside the ruling circles had heard of. That would be Choi Soon-Sil, her sisterly soulmate, the daughter of Choi Tae-Min, pastor, shamanist, spiritual adviser to President Park’s father, President Park Chung Hee, until the dictator’s assassination by his intelligence chief 37 years ago.

You might imagine the advice Clinton would have been giving. “Hey, I’ve got this really neat server or whatever they call that weird gizmo in my basement,” she might have boasted. “You ought to try it. Nobody but me has any idea what I’m talking about when I email that awful husband of mine, Bill. You know, you never know what Bill will be up to ― or into. I’ve gotta keep track of him all the time.”

To which Park, no dummy, might have responded: “Oh, I don’t have to worry about getting caught out on anything, Hillary. We run a tight ship in the Blue House. I’ve got this old girlfriend from when we were kids. We keep tabs on everything, security guaranteed. Nobody knows about her outside my staff. They’re too scared to talk to outsiders about her. They know I’ll fire them if they say a thing.”

That’s not all they might have been talking about. Think of the advice they might have been exchanging about foundations ― the Clinton Foundation and the two foundations that Choi Soon-Sil was running. No doubt Hillary could have helped a lot there.

“Look, you have to be careful about gifts from countries like Saudi Arabia,” she might have been saying. “Cover your tracks. Act like you don’t know who’s giving what. Save the favor-giving for when no one remembers the gift.”

“But Hillary,” Park might have asked, “what about Bill? How do you keep your husband from sticking his nose into the foundation? What if it turns out Saudi Arabia gave a bunch of money to the Clinton Foundation and then he got Saudi Arabia to buy stuff from a company that was giving money to you or your campaign or to Bill for making a speech?”

Hillary would have had an easy answer. “No problem,” she might have advised Park. “Speech-making is an easy way out. You get a few hundred thousand dollars for a speech, and then a little later the company gives money to the foundation, or to Bill, and nobody notices.”

Park, of course, doesn’t own any foundations. Nor does she run the two that prosecutors are asking Choi Soon-Sil about. She may have had no clue as to what they were for.
In cases like this, ignorance is the best excuse, “I’ll pass that advice along to one of my friends,” Park might have told Hillary. “I think I know someone who’s got a couple of foundations. She would love to hear your wise words about the uses of foundations.”

Hillary, no fool, might have known Park was referring to Choi Soon-Sil. “Are you talking about that fat woman I used to see when calling on you at the Blue House?” she might have blurted. “Oh, you’re so fortunate to have someone like that doing your speeches and figuring out policies. I’ve only got Huma Abedin. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband Anthony Weiner got into all kinds of trouble texting and showing off his abs to lady friends. Embarrassing.”

Park might have smiled and commiserated with Clinton over Bill’s ex-girlfriends. “Oh Hillary, I do feel for you. Bill’s old friends all looked so old on TV.”

That one would really tick Hillary off. “OMG, please don’t remind me. Bill is such a cad. I’d almost prefer Donald Trump. I’m worried about our living arrangements after I’m elected. We have to act as if we’re both in the White House, just as we were when Bill was president, but what if Bill sneaks off to meet his latest girlfriend and the media find out?”

Park might be all sympathy. “I’m so glad I never married,” would be her response. “I’m lucky I have nothing like that to worry about. Hillary, you must come to Seoul and have a summit with me after your election. We have so much in common. Forget about North Korea. We have much more important things to talk about.”

Donald Kirk has been covering the battles for power on the Korean Peninsula for decades. He’s at [email protected]