Bribery scandal rocks Jeolla area before elections

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Bribery scandal rocks Jeolla area before elections

Police said yesterday that a Seoul-based lighting company engaged in a large-scale bribery scheme in the South Jeolla region, paying off high-level regional officials - including the governor of Haenam County - in order to win orders for government landscape projects.

A man surnamed Nam, the head of a lighting company initialed N, is suspected to have used a broker to give money and goods to officials in Yeosu, Mokpo and Haenam, all in South Jeolla.

Police said the broker paid Haenam’s governor, Kim Chung-sik, 150 million won ($135,000). The former head of city development in Yeosu, a woman surnamed Kim, was paid around 300 million won to 400 million won, and two manager-level officials in Mokpo were also bribed, the special investigation division at the National Police Agency said yesterday.

The investigation is expected to have great political impact in the region, as Kim Chung-sik and the mayors of Yeosu and Mokpo have already registered as candidates for the June 2 elections.

Haenam, Yeosu, and Mokpo, located on the southwestern coast, have been aggressive in launching nighttime-view landscape projects during the last couple of years. Yeosu, which has been chosen as the host city of the 2012 World Expo, has put aside around 40 billion won just for these projects.

In late 2008, N secured orders from Yeosu worth around 7.5 billion won. Police reported that Nam and his broker said that part of the money the broker paid the Yeosu development head, Kim, was earmarked for higher-ranking officials.

When police started their investigation earlier this month, Kim resigned from office and stopped all involvement in Yeosu’s Expo preparations.

Police said that the bribes were given to the government officials by the broker, surnamed Kim, who held the title of executive director at N. “Nam gathered more than 1 billion worth of slush funds,” said a police official.

The broker directly handed bribes to the two Mokpo officials, the Haenam governor and the Yeosu development head, police said. The Haenam governor was given a shopping bag full of 50,000 won bills in return for a 2.6 billion won order, according to police.

Police said the bribery investigation is expected to expand into other regions, as N received orders from other areas, including the metropolitan region. According to the company’s Web site, it won 76 projects over the last five years.


By Kang In-sik [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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