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Suicide rings a warning of election debts’ high costs

Jan 27,2010
Large debts from an election campaign and a brewing bribery scandal drove the mayor of Yangsan, South Gyeongsang, to commit suicide, prosecutors said yesterday.

Oh Geun-sub, 62, hanged himself on Nov. 27, hours before he was due at the local prosecutors’ office to answer questions about allegedly accepting bribes.

Oh had been served with a subpoena and was scheduled to meet officials at Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office. Instead, a family friend found his body at his home.

According to the prosecution, Oh first won the by-election on June 5, 2004, taking the mayor’s office but falling under severe pressure to repay his debtors 6 billion won ($5.16 million) he had used to run his campaign.

A real estate developer who’d been Oh’s friend for three decades knew of Oh’s dilemma and approached him, the prosecution said. The real estate developer sought Oh’s influence over his land projects in return for cash, and prosecutors said Oh succumbed to the offer.

Oh allegedly received a total of 2.4 billion won from three real estate developers, including his friend, as well as a local daily newspaper president. Most of the sum reportedly went to repay his election debts.

“The unfortunate case had been prompted from the perennial problems of the expensive election campaign,” the prosecution said. “Even though a candidate wins the victory, he or she has to suffer from campaign debts. This incident should serve as an alarm bell to such practices.”

The late mayor was a self-made man who had risen from an elementary-school education and a hard early life to earn money in grain brokerage, transportation and construction. He first entered the political arena as a city council member in 1995.

Oh set up Yangsan College while he was in his 40s and served as the head of its board of directors.


By Lee Ki-won, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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