중앙데일리

Park Jin implicated in bribe scandal

Lawmakers of all stripes accused in Park Yeon-cha case  PLAY AUDIO

Mar 28,2009
Park Jin
The sweeping political bribery scandal sparked by Taekwang Industrial Chairman Park Yeon-cha touched a key ruling party legislator yesterday as Grand National Rep. Park Jin was questioned about allegedly taking money from the tycoon.

According to prosecutors, Park Jin appeared at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office at around 9:50 a.m. yesterday. The lawmaker may be cross-examined with the Taekwang chairman about the charge, prosecutors said. Park Jin strongly denied the allegations.

Park is a three-term Grand National Party lawmaker who represents Jongno District in Seoul. The international relations expert began his political career in 2002 when he won the legislative seat in the by-elections. Since August 2008, he has been serving as the chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee on Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Prosecutors said the lawmaker is suspected of receiving tens of millions of won from the businessman in bribes.

The prosecution also sent another notice to Democratic Party Rep. Suh Gab-won to appear for questioning on Monday after Suh rejected an earlier call. Suh, however, again asked to reschedule.

Suh is accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars from Park through a Korean restaurant owner in New York City. Prosecutors said Taekwang Chairman Park had asked the restaurant owner to entertain politicians who visited Manhattan and provided the bribes.

Suh is not the only DP lawmaker who is suspected of having received foreign currency bribes from Park Yeon-cha. Lee Kwang-jae, a senior DP lawmaker, was officially taken into prosecution custody on Thursday night, becoming the first incumbent lawmaker to be detained in the Park Yeon-cha influence-peddling scandal.

Lee was accused of receiving a total of $120,000 in dollars from Park Yeon-cha between 2004 and 2006. Prosecutors said he also took another 20 million won ($14,825) in Korean cash from Park in 2008 and a total of $30,000 in dollars from Chung Dae-kun from 2004 to 2006. Chung was the president of Nonghyup at the time.

According to the prosecution, Lee received the first dollar bribes from Park Yeon-cha in May 2004, in New York. The restaurant owner delivered the money, prosecutors said.

In 2006, Lee received $50,000 in Seoul and another $50,000 in Vietnam. Both times, Park hand-delivered the bribes, the prosecution said.

Lee was also accused of attempting to destroy evidence after media reports about his alleged bribe-taking emerged earlier this month, and the court allowed the prosecution to detain the lawmaker on that charge.

Prosecution sources said Park Yeon-cha preferred providing bribes in dollars because it would be harder to trace. It was also easier for Park to provide larger sums in dollars because a stash of $10,000 in $100 bills is about the same physical volume as 1 million won ($741).

As more and more lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties are named in the growing scandal, the two parties reacted differently. The Democratic Party said the prosecution’s probe is unfairly harsh on its lawmakers, demanding a parliamentary investigation and an independent counsel.

“The probe is politically motivated, and prosecutors are only killing the opposition lawmakers,” said Rep. Noh Young-min, spokesman of the DP.

The opposition party will hold a lawmakers’ general assembly meeting next week and submit bills to open a parliamentary investigation and to appoint an independent counsel.

The Grand National Party, however, sneered at the DP’s complaint. In his interview with KBS radio, senior GNP Rep. Gong Sung-jin was skeptical that the Blue House was behind the probe.

“Rep. Park Jin is the head of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs and trade committee, which deals with free trade issues,” said Gong. “It makes no sense that such a person has become the subject of a political purge.”

Gong said GNP lawmakers are also being investigated, and the DP should wait and examine the outcome of the probe instead of politicizing the matter.

He said politicians and officials of both the Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak administrations are suspected of being bribed by Park Yeon-cha.

He also said former President Roh could not be exempted from the investigation.

Prosecutors said yesterday they are talking to one or two incumbent lawmakers to question them on Sunday.

“There will not be a new face to be summoned next week,” said Hong Man-pyo, senior prosecutor in charge of the case. “After completing indictments against the initially investigated suspects, we will further investigate new charges.”



By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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