Loan, bribes dog Kim at confirmation

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Loan, bribes dog Kim at confirmation

On the second day of his confirmation hearing yesterday, Prime Minister-designate Kim Tae-ho was barraged with questions about whether 1 billion won ($836,260) he borrowed from a bank before the 2006 South Gyeongsang gubernatorial election violated banking and campaign finance laws.

When opposition Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Chough Soon-hyung attacked Kim over the loan, Kim replied that it was “legitimate financial transaction.”

“It wasn’t me who borrowed loans from the banks, and I didn’t violate the election funds law or banking law,” Kim said.

As on the first day of his confirmation hearing, Kim apologized and said that he didn’t know politicians were prohibited from using loans to finance campaigns.

When GNP lawmaker Lee Bum-rae asked the former South Gyeongsang governor whether he believes he meets the ethical standards of the voters, Kim stressed that he has worked hard to fundamentally meet the standard.

“Some describe me as an onion,” Kim said. “Meaning that new allegations arise whenever you peel off one layer and get to the layer underneath. But I have nothing inside.”

Unlike other newly appointed ministers who made appearances in parliament this week - and whose confirmation hearings were mere formalities - a prime minister-designate has to be approved by a National Assembly vote. To win approval, Kim needs a majority of votes in a session attended by at least half of the Assembly’s 299 members. The math is in his favor because the ruling Grand National Party holds 172 seats in the Assembly, while the main opposition Democratic Party occupies 87 seats out of 127 that belong to the opposition. The vote itself will take place on Friday.

Regarding the contentious loan Kim testified Tuesday that he borrowed 1 billion won in the names of his father and a friend prior to the 2006 election, which he won. Yesterday, he said his father borrowed 600 million won on his “credit,” and Democratic Party lawmaker Park Sun-sook took issue with his answer.

“Your father’s assets were 135 million won, so how could he possibly borrow 600 million won without collateral? This is a preferential loan,” Park said. “You violated banking law because it bans politicians from taking out loans - directly or indirectly - for political fund use.”

DP lawmakers said yesterday that they will sue Kim for violating banking, election and ethics laws for public servants.

DP lawmaker Park Byeong-seug raised the issue of last year’s investigation into allegations that Kim received bribes from former Taekwang Industrial Chairman Park Yeon-cha. Kim was accused of receiving tens of thousands of dollars from Park in April 2007 - in cash allegedly delivered to him at a Korean restaurant in New York City.

He was cleared of the charges.

Park questioned Kim about last year’s investigation and whether prosecutors asked him if he met Taekwang’s Park on a Vietnam visit between Aug. 25 and 28 in 2006.

“If I had met him there, I should’ve stood trial,” Kim replied.

Taekwang’s Park was ordered to the hearing before 8:00 p.m. yesterday.

By Kim Mi-ju []
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