Park is accused of taking bribe
Ex-aide says Kim knew of transfer
The independent counsel yesterday requested a detention warrant for Park Jie-won, presidential chief of staff in the Kim Dae-jung Blue House. He is alleged to have received 15 billion won ($12.7 million) as a bribe from the Hyundai Group before the June 2000 inter-Korean summit in exchange for his promise to let the group build a casino and a duty-free shop at Mount Geumgang.
Mr. Park told the court, which was reviewing the counsel’s request to detain him, that Mr. Kim knew about the cash transfer to North Korea before the summit. The statement may induce the counsel to investigate Mr. Kim, as it would indicate that the former president, who has been regarded as the ultimate wire-puller of the alleged cash-for-summit scheme, permitted the cash transfer.
According to the counsel, a former arms dealer identified only by his family name, Kim, acting on behalf of Mr. Park, in early April 2000 asked for 15 billion won from Chung Mong-hun, chairman of Hyundai Asan, saying that the money was for the preparation of the summit. Lee Ik-chi, former president of Hyundai Securities, then delivered the money in the form of a certificate of deposit to Mr. Park in late April saying, “Please cooperate with Hyundai’s overall North Korean projects that include building a casino and a duty-free shop at Mount Geumgang.” Mr. Chung recently acknowledged during counsel investigation that he gave the money to Mr. Park as a bribe, officials of the counsel’s office said.
The counsel, which has been searching the bank records of Mr. Park and Hyundai executives, suspects that the money was laundered and went to Mr. Park to be used for his political funds or for him to give to other politicians.
The counsel, however, still hasn’t traced the movements of the 15 billion won. Mr. Park yesterday strongly denied that he used the money for himself, saying, “I have never received any money from Hyundai and I have never talked to Lee Ik-chi in person. Mr. Lee himself must have taken the money.”
Some observers suggest that Mr. Park may have given the money to North Korean officials as “gifts” before the summit. Sources at the counsel, however, said that investigators think it is most likely that the money went to political circles here.
Mr. Park is charged separately with helping Hyundai Merchant Marine receive 400 billion won ($ 3.4 billion) in loans from the Korea Development Bank. According to the counsel, Mr. Park, at the request of Mr. Chung, met in May 2000 with Lee Ki-ho, Mr. Kim’s senior secretary for economic affairs, and asked Mr. Lee to influence the bank to give the loans. Mr. Lee is currently detained.
Charges against Mr. Park may move the counsel to consider summoning Mr. Kim. If the charge that the money went to Mr. Park and other politicians to be used as political funds turns out to be true, the cash-for-summit allegations will evolve into a major bribery scandal. That will undermine the Kim administration’s position that the cash transfer was its investment in a peaceful future for the Korean Peninsula.
Mr. Park in court yesterday said, “Lim Dong-won, then the head of the National Intelligence Service, reported to Mr. Kim a month before the summit that Hyundai had agreed with the North to provide $500 million as the payoff for the North’s allowing Hyundai’s business projects there.”
Those words do not suggest that the cash transfer was to buy the summit, but they imply that Mr. Kim knew about it before the summit. The counsel is thought likely to ask to extend the investigation period, which is scheduled to end June 25.
by Jeon Jin-bae