Calls for police chief to withdraw

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Calls for police chief to withdraw

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Han Myeong-sook, center, and Lee Hae-chan, to her right, former prime ministers during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, and other Roh supporters yesterday demanded that President Lee Myung-bak withdraw Cho Hyun-oh, the Seoul police chief, as his designate to be the national police chief. [NEWSIS]



Remarks made by National Police Agency Commissioner-designate Cho Hyun-oh’s concerning the death of former President Roh Moo-hyun have triggered a controversy: Cho told senior riot police officers during a speech in March that Roh committed suicide because he had found a large sum of slush fund in borrowed name accounts.

“Why did former President Roh Moo-hyun die? Why did he leap off a cliff? Just a day before [his death] he found a large amount of money in bank accounts under other people`s names,” Cho said in that speech. “When a demand for introducing an independent counsel to investigate Roh in connection with [Roh’s family’s bribery scandal] grew [in the National Assembly], Kwon Yang-sook, Roh’s wife, talked to the Democratic Party to disable the launch of the independent counsel. That’s because the launch of the independent counsel apparently would mean that everything will be disclosed.”

The lecture by Cho was distributed in CDs to local police offices as educational material.

After the state-run broadcaster KBS on Friday reported on Cho’s March 31 remarks, there was a barrage of news media coverage.

“I’m afraid and uncomfortable that my remarks to police officers created misunderstanding,” Cho said on Saturday. “I didn’t know details about Roh’s investigation and I just wanted to give a word of encouragement to riot police officers who were dispatched to rallies ignited by Roh’s probe.”

Prosecutors who had investigated the Roh bribery scandal on Sunday rejected Cho’s comments, saying they didn’t find any evidence of slush funds.

Roh, who had been Korea’s 16th president, jumped off a cliff in his hometown on May 23, 2009, amid an investigation into a bribery scandal, becoming the first Korean president to commit suicide. The predecessor of President Lee Myung-bak was accused of receiving at least $6 million from Park Yeon-cha, a Busan-based businessman and longtime patron who is now in jail.

Whether or not Cho’s remarks were true, Cho has become a target of criticism from opposition parties and Roh’s supporters, who have demanded a public apology from Cho.

If Cho does not drop out of consideration for the post, the opposition Democratic Party is considering rejection of Cho’s parliamentary confirmation hearing.

“It’s unforgivable and absurd remarks that insulted former president who passed away tragically,” DP spokeswoman Jeon Hyeon-heui said Saturday. “President Lee Myung-bak should immediately repeal Cho’s designation.”

Calling Cho’s remarks “groundless,” Moon Jae-in, former chief of staff during the Roh administration, said he can’t forgive the national police chief-designate.

The Roh Moo-hyun Foundation released a statement Saturday, saying it will sue Cho for defamation and spreading false facts.

“Cho’s remarks are obviously false and insulted the former president,” reads the statement. “[The foundation] will take every civic and criminal action against Cho and ask his legal and moral responsibility.”

A senior ranking Blue House official said yesterday that Cho should be at least given a chance to explain his controversial remarks in the hearing.

The ruling Grand National Party’s spokesman, Ahn Hyoung-Hwan, released a statement on Saturday, saying a decision about Cho is in the hands of the parliamentary confirmation hearing.

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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