Ministry probe: where’s the gold from Korea seal?

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Ministry probe: where’s the gold from Korea seal?

The government admitted yesterday that it had been negligent in overseeing the making of the great seal of Korea and said it will punish those responsible. The seal project, which took place in 2007 during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, has recently become a controversial issue after suspicions surfaced last week that some of the seal’s gold was pocketed by its maker.

“The public officials overseeing the great seal production did not confirm whether the seal was made according to contract and, despite disputes within the ministry on the seal production, the officials did not bother clearing up the facts, even as they were publishing a white paper on the seal,” said Kim Sang-in, of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, who is responsible for overseeing the manufacture of the great seal.

The ministry is conducting its own probe into the affair, alongside a police investigation that was launched last week into the seal’s head manufacturer, Min Hong-gyu, chief of the government’s great seal management team.

Kim said they found no traces of tin having been used in the seal-making process. A production plan outlined by Min had stated before the manufacturing process began that five metals - gold, silver, copper, zinc and tin - would be used to make the seal.

In December 2007, a public servant overseeing the production endorsed the seal; the following February he indicated that the seal contained tin as regulations on the seal were being amended.

The public servants did not confirm whether the seal was baked in a traditional kiln. Min insisted it was, while another member of his team refuted the claim, according to the ministry spokesman.

As for allegations that miniature seals, made from gold left over from the seal, were later handed to several high-ranking government officials and Democratic Party politicians, the ministry said it was only able to confirm that Choi Yang-sik, then-vice minister of public administration, had received such a seal.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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