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Prosecutors have detained several close aides of President Roh Moo-hyun. They also said that 900 million won ($750,000) of the money Lee Gi-myeong received for selling a parcel of land in Yongin was used to pay the debts of Jangsucheon, a spring water company partly owned by Mr. Roh. Mr. Lee is the former head of a group supporting Mr. Roh in the presidential election. Prosecutors also said they were looking at whether the sale of the land was a fraudulent transaction aimed at raising political funds for Mr. Roh.
The sale of Mr. Lee’s land in Yongin was very suspicious. Kang Geum-won, the president of Changshin Textile Co. and a major financial backer of Mr. Roh, said he bought the land at a price of 1.9 billion won. But 900 million won of the money went directly to Korea Lease Financing Co., the creditor of the water company, without going through Mr. Lee’s hands. Later, Mr. Kang called off the transaction, but did not ask for the money to be returned. That is far from common sense.
Still, Mr. Roh told a press conference in May, “The land was sold to a supporter. It is unfair to see all economic activities of my friends as corruption.” In early June, Mr. Roh sent e-mail to Mr. Lee apologizing for Mr. Lee’s inconvenience and complaining about the media. Mr. Roh said the press raised groundless doubts in an attempt to bring the president to his knees.
If the transaction was normal, why does the prosecution plan to probe further into it? That is why the media suspected that Mr. Roh had tried to gloss over the matter.
Many of Mr. Roh’s aides probed by the prosecution were linked to Jangsucheon. Ahn Hee-jung gave 700 million won to Seon Bong-sul, Mr. Roh’s former chauffeur and later the CEO of Jangsucheon, including 450 million from Mr. Kang. Choi Do-sul, the former Blue House secretary, also provided 340 million won to Mr. Seon.
The prosecution must lay bare the story behind the sale of the land in Yongin and say whether Mr. Roh was involved. Corruption investigations of Mr. Roh’s aides must be expanded beyond those related to Jangsucheon.
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