Ruling favors Park Jin; assembly seat now safe

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Ruling favors Park Jin; assembly seat now safe

An appeals court yesterday handed down 800,000 won ($675) in fines to Grand National Rep. Park Jin, who has been standing trial for allegedly pocketing $20,000 and 10 million won in illegal political funds from former Taekwang Industrial Chairman Park Yeon-cha at the Shilla Hotel in March 2008.

If the Supreme Court upholds yesterday’s ruling, Park will be able to retain his National Assembly seat. According to national election laws, a lawmaker cannot lose his or her seat unless sentenced to a fine of more than 1 million won.

In a previous ruling by a lower court, the three-term lawmaker was sentenced to pay 3 million won in fines and 23 million won in compensation. Park was on the brink of losing his seat if the appeals court had upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Judge Kim Sang-cheol, who presided over the appeals trial, cleared the lawmaker of charges of accepting $20,000 from the businessman.

“Mr. Park Yeon-cha said he offered the money in envelopes to Park Jin in an alley in front of the hotel’s toilet, but the court finds his argument not convincing because it’s hard to understand how Park Jin would have accepted envelopes from a person he said he just met,” Judge Kim said in his verdict.

The court, however, respected a lower court’s ruling and found Park guilty of accepting 10 million won from another businessman, masterminded by Park Yeon-cha. According to election law, a lawmaker cannot accept more than 5 million won in political funds per person.

Leaving the courtroom, Park Jin denied the 10 million won charges and said he will appeal the case to the Supreme Court to prove his innocence.

Park is the head of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs and trade committee and he is regarded as one of President Lee Myung-bak’s key aides.

By Kim Mi-ju []
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