As the independent counsel is digging deeper into the corruption scandal involving impeached President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi Soon-sil, the prime suspects, for their part, are going all out to defend themselves.
One side is trying to uncover the truth by looking into all allegations raised by the media and lawmakers, while the other is finding ways that can do the most good and the least harm to themselves. To put it simply, their survival strategy is to conceal the truth as much as they can.
In a way, this is like a game of Truth or Dare for the suspects. If they concede their corrupt ties, this may trigger another set of allegations. If they deny them, the counsel team's efforts will become more extensive in gathering evidence and securing confessions. In this case, the scope of the investigation can widen further, which may result in larger damage to them.
And this is exactly what is happening to Park and Choi.
As they continue to deny bribery claims over the money conglomerates provided to Choi's K-Sports and Mir foundations, the counsel team is now tracing their hidden assets, believing that they were like a husband and wife who shared the same account. This means that the counsel understands that although Choi actually accepted the money, it was also intended for Park.
The probe is now being extended to Choi's late father Choi Tae-min, who had effectively managed Park's wealth for almost two decades until he died in 1994.
The cult founder and ex-convict approached Park by sending a hand-written letter to console her following her mother's assassination in 1974. Park, who was then 25, invited Choi to Cheong Wa Dae to meet him. Choi is known to have had influence on Park since then.
While Park acted as first lady, she set up anti-communist organizations to support her father Park Chung-hee's iron-fisted rule. The organizations extorted a huge amount of funds from conglomerates in the form of donations.
According to Choi's adopted son, Cho Sun-je, his father also managed the dictator's slush funds after Park was assassinated in 1979. After hearing the news of his death, he hurried to Cheong Wa Dae and took out the funds that had been kept by the dictator in a safe, Cho claimed.
Choi Tae-min maintained an intimate relationship with Park until he died, and his daughter Choi Soon-sil took his place.
The daughter's estranged half-brother, Choi Jae-seok, recently raised suspicions about his father's death, claiming he might have been poisoned by his daughters, including Choi Soon-sil.
They took his father's money, and the other siblings had to give up their inheritance claims after receiving death threats from gangsters hired by the daughters, according to the brother. The independent counsel is also looking into this claim.
The counsel team believes that looking into these allegations will be effective in revealing the truth behind the decades-long relationship between Park and the Choi family.
There are rumors that Choi is now operating over 500 paper companies around the world to manage assets worth 10 trillion won ($8.35 billion).
Uncovering Park's hidden assets will be a major task for the counsel team, but it does not mean that it will be a major factor for the Constitutional Court's deliberations in the ongoing impeachment trial for Park. This is because bribery allegations are only a part of the bizarre scandal, and the ruling is not just about a criminal case. Despite the Park side's all-out denial and deceptive tactics, it seems unlikely that the court will defy the people's order and nullify the impeachment and put the President back in office.
Regardless of how the bribery probe will unfold, it appears certain that Park and Choi will end up in prison in the near future.