Presidential secretary resigns amid scandal

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Presidential secretary resigns amid scandal

A presidential secretary named in an alleged abuse of power scandal involving President Lee Myung-bak’s acquaintances stepped down yesterday, the Blue House said.

Lee Young-ho, the presidential secretary for employment and labor affairs, tendered his resignation. “I apologize for having caused trouble. I am taking responsibility and stepping down for having caused damage to the president, although it never was my intention,” Lee wrote in his resignation letter, the Blue House said.

Lee has been named by the opposition Democratic Party as one of the masterminds behind the so-called Yeongpo-gate scandal.

Lee In-kyu, an ethics bureau official at the Prime Minister’s Office, has been accused of conducting illegal surveillance of a local businessman and reporting the results directly to the presidential secretary.

The scandal got its name from the Yeongpo Club, an organization of public servants from the Yeongil and Pohang areas of North Gyeongsang established in 1980. (Yeongpo is an abbreviation combining the names Yeongil and Pohang.) The president is from Pohang.

The opposition says the group has abused the power of the state to go after the president’s critics. Both Lee In-kyu and Lee Young-ho were known to be members of the club.

An ongoing official probe by prosecutors is looking into the accusation that officials of the Prime Minister’s Office illegally monitored the local businessman, Kim Jong-ik. Kim has claimed the private investigation against him ruined both his reputation and career, which can be grounds for a defamation suit under Korean law.

Kim, the former head of NS Hanmaum, an outsourcing company for Kookmin Bank, claimed he was investigated after he uploaded a video clip critical of President Lee Myung-bak to his blog in 2008.

The number of officials suspected of being involved in the scandal has increased to five from four, the prosecution said yesterday, adding that all of the homes of those people had been raided and “significant evidence” was discovered including documents, daily logs and computer records.

The newest official at the Prime Minister’s Office to be investigated is said to have reported directly to Lee In-kyu.

With yet another person of interest added to the investigation, prosecutors are not ruling out the possibility that there may be others linked to the case.

Prosecutors also said they have circumstantial evidence that the five officials involved in the scandal had attempted to destroy evidence by removing documents and records from the Prime Minister’s Office ahead of Friday’s raid. The five officials will be summoned this week for questioning, the prosecution said.

A former head of the Dongjak Police was also questioned yesterday by the prosecution about the suspicion that the Prime Minister’s Office had pressured him to continue a probe into Kim since November 2008.


By Ser Myo-ja, Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr
]

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