Ex-premier Han takes stand to deny charge

Home > National > Politics

print dictionary print

Ex-premier Han takes stand to deny charge


Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook appears yesterday at the Seoul Central District Court to stand trial. Han faces a bribery charge. By Oh Jong-taek

Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook took the stand in the courtroom yesterday and pleaded her innocence as the Seoul Central District Court opened a trial against her on charges of receiving bribes.

Han, the symbol of integrity in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, served as prime minister from April 2006 to March 2007. She was indicted in December for allegedly receiving a $50,000 bribe from Kwak Young-wook, former CEO of Korea Express, in return for helping him win a job.

The first session of the trial began yesterday afternoon, and Han entered the court accompanied by Democratic Party leaders as well as former Roh administration officials. About 60 of her backers waited for her in the court’s lobby, holding white lilies to show their support.

In her opening statement, Han told the three-judge panel that she will “lay bare the truth,” and called the prosecution’s accusation “groundless and malicious.”

Throughout the probe last year, Han exercised her right to remain silent in protest of the investigation, promising that she would state her position at trial.

“I want to say it clearly. The prosecution’s accusations are completely groundless,” Han told the judges. “I did not take $50,000.”

She also said it was impossible for her to have received money at a luncheon inside the prime minister’s residence while her aides and bodyguards were present, as prosecutors have charged.

In their indictment, prosecutors said Han was given the money during a luncheon at the prime minister’s residence on Dec. 20, 2006, in return for an introduction to then-Commerce Minister Chung Sye-kyun.

“The luncheon was a year-end party with my friends after Chung expressed his intention to step down,” she told the judges. “When we had the luncheon, he had already decided to resign from his post [to return to the party], and he submitted the resignation officially nine days later.

“Does it make sense that a prime minister would seek a favor about a job appointment from a resigning minister?” Han asked. “The prosecution’s argument is absurd.” She added that she kept her lawmaker’s seat while serving as the prime minister, and so had every opportunity to raise political funds legitimately. “To avoid a scandal, I didn’t even do that,” she said.

Han said that Kwak falsely testified against her because he “had become a hostage of the prosecutors.”

After Han finished her statement, Kwon Oh-seong, the senior prosecutor of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in charge of the case, denied her claim that the investigation was politically motivated.

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

한명숙 전 총리 “민주화운동 재판 땐 떳떳 … 오늘은 서글퍼”

최초의 여성 총리를 지낸 한명숙(66) 전 국무총리가 피고인으로 법정에 섰다. 8일 오후 2시 서울중앙지법 형사합의27부 심리로 열린 재판에서다. 그는 곽영욱(70) 전 대한통운 사장으로부터 공기업 인사 청탁과 관련해 5만 달러를 받은 혐의(뇌물수수)로 지난해 12월 불구속 기소됐다.

한 전 총리는 법정에 출석하면서 “내가 살아온 인생을 걸고 법정에서 진실을 밝히겠다. 성실한 자세로 최선을 다하겠다”고 혐의 사실을 전면 부인했다. 그의 뒤를 이해찬 전 국무총리, 유시민 전 보건복지부 장관, 박주선·김진표 민주당 최고위원 등 80여 명이 백합 한 송이씩을 손에 들고 따랐다. 한 전 총리 측은 “백합은 한 전 총리의 결백과 무죄를 상징한다”고 설명했다. 당초 한 전 총리는 곽 전 대한통운 사장으로부터 돈을 받았다고 하는 오찬 당시의 옷차림으로 출석할 것을 고려했다고 한다. 그러나 ‘퍼포먼스 같다’는 지적에 따라 그만뒀다는 후문이다.

초반부터 법정 다툼은 치열했다. 검찰은 곽 전 사장이 한 전 총리에게 고가의 일제 골프채를 선물했고, 2004년 총선 때 선거자금을 지원한 사실도 있다고 밝혔다. 두 사람이 청탁을 주고받을 만큼 친분이 있다는 정황 증거로 제시한 것이다.

검찰의 공소 요지 설명을 묵묵히 듣고 난 뒤 한 전 총리는 최초 진술에서 미리 준비한 원고를 읽었다. 그는 “생애 두 번째로 법정에 섰다. 첫 번째는 31년 전 민주화운동 중 고문을 당한 뒤에 선 것”이라며 “그때는 떳떳했는데 오늘은 한없이 서글프다”고 말했다. 이어 “나는 삶과 양심을 돈과 바꿀 만큼 헛되게 살지 않았다. 이것은 내 삶 모두를 걸고 하는 절규”라고 말했다.
  • 한글 기사 보기

  • Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
    with the Korea JoongAng Daily
    help-image Social comment?
    lock icon

    To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

    Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

    What’s Popular Now