Local elections see fresh crop of bribery charges

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Local elections see fresh crop of bribery charges

Every local election season a string of candidates gain attention not for their political platforms, but because they’ve been charged with bribery.

It’s a tradition that’s seeing no changes. And this year, for the first time, a former high-level police agent has been arrested on charges of violating the elections laws.

On Wednesday, the Daegu District Prosecutors’ Office arrested the former head of the North Gyeongsang Provincial Police Agency, Lee Taek-chun, 65, for paying five people more than 70,000 ($58) won a day - the legal limit - to campaign for him. Lee allegedly gave the campaigners a total of 57.6 million won between July and February to support his bid for the governor’s office of Seongju County in North Gyeongsang.

And in addition to the cash payments, he’s suspected to have given county residents around 180 pairs of socks to win their support.

Elsewhere, in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang, a mayoral candidate was arrested for violating the election laws. According to authorities, Kim, 43, gave 54 million won worth of goods to six campaigners between March 2009 and January, and allegedly paid another 1.2 million won in order to wine and dine 104 city residents to gain their support.

In Ulsan, candidates took a different tack to win over voters, allegedly bribing local media personnel to print false public opinion poll results. Jung Chun-suk, a Grand National Party candidate for governor of Ulsan’s Dong District; Ryu Jae-gun, a GNP candidate for head of Ulsan’s Buk District; Cho Yong-su, an independent candidate for the head of Ulsan’s Jung District; and Kim Gi-hwan and Park Re-hwan, both independent candidates for positions in Ulsan’s city government, were convicted of bribing a local media company to conduct a public opinion poll ahead of the regional elections and fabricate results that favored their candidacies. Each candidate was fined 5 million won.

The Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office is also investigating a case regarding the Democratic Party’s candidate for mayor of Anseong. According to prosecutors, candidate B should have been named the party’s choice after he won a public opinion poll. But candidate A allegedly bribed members of the party, including its regional chair, C, in order to win the nomination. C, who supported B, reported the bribe to prosecutors.

Meanwhile, the National Election Commission said yesterday that it awarded 74.3 million won to a person who reported that the spouse of a gubernatorial candidate in North Jeolla gave 5.8 million won to campaigners. It’s the biggest such award the National Election Commission has ever bestowed.

The commission said that a total of 38 people have reported on 28 separate cases election law violations this year, for which they have been paid a total of 142 million won.

“It’s hard to uncover cases of bribery without reporting from insiders,” said an official at the election commission.

By Shin Jin-ho, Huh Jin [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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