Politicians injured by rush mats, robbers and revelations

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Politicians injured by rush mats, robbers and revelations

Sept. 4, 1981
Im Jae-jeong, a National Assembly member, laid bare what he dubbed a group bribery scandal on this date. The bribes at issue were not fancy, cash-filled boxes, but rush mats valued at 138,000 won each. Other legislators tried to stop Mr. Im from snitching, as it would hurt their prestige, but to no avail. Mr. Im, who was not among the recipients, reported that nine lawmakers accepted the mats at an educational council.
At first, the accused lawmakers responded in a carefree manner, reportedly saying, “Well, I didn’t ask for it. I had no other option but to take it.” When the National Assembly assigned the investigation to prosecutors, however, they fussed about whether to return the mats. In the wake of the scandal, the lawmakers resigned. The Mat Scandal surfaced as a major social issue, raising questions over whether a mat constituted a bribe or a gift. Five days after the disclosure, prosecutors decided the assemblymen would not be penalized further, since they had already been removed from their positions and given up the mats.

Sept. 4, 1999
Kim Gang-ryong was a thief with high standards. He had a fastidious taste for high-class society, mainly targeting high-level politicians and dignitaries. His victims included Yu Jong-geun, then-governor of North Jeolla province, from whom 35 million won in cash was stolen. Mr. Yu chose not to accuse Mr. Kim, but instead denied being robbed. Other victims also tried to hide details of their robberies, arousing public suspicion over where the money had originated.
Mr. Kim was far from being a Robin Hood. He spent the money on drugs, not in the name of justice. What interested the public, however, was the source of the stolen money; it was thought to be bribes. Mr. Kim tried to jump on the public opinion bandwagon, but the effort flopped. Though prosecutors tried to have him imprisoned for life, on this date the court sentenced him to 10 years behind bars.

Sept. 7, 1992
The Agency for National Security Planning announced on this date that Kim Nak-jung, a leading politician in progressive camps, had been spying for North Korea for 36 years. The intelligence agency said that North Korea accommodated Mr. Kim with American funds, smuggled into the South by secret agents. Mr. Kim allegedly met those agents at a top-secret location a few times, where he was handed as much as $2.1 million at a time, which he then moved to black-market dealers. The money, according to the agency, provided funding for the progressive party.
Mr. Kim was found to possess other espionage-related items, such as pistols with silencers. Mr. Kim’s mission, the agency said, was to win over South Korean intellectuals, instilling them with pro-North Korean ideas. Kim Il-sung, then-leader of North Korea and father of Kim Jong-il, reportedly gave him $500,000. After Mr. Kim was sentenced to prison, human rights groups like Amnesty International argued that just meeting with North Koreans did not make a person a spy.


by Chun Su-jin
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