A town betrayed over seal fraud

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A town betrayed over seal fraud

Officials at Sancheong County, South Gyeongsang, said they were frustrated with their plan to build multiple structures to honor the fourth state seal, which they believe was made in their region, after the seal maker, Min Hong-gyu, confessed Wednesday that the seal was crafted in another workplace of his, in Icheon, Gyeonggi.

According to county officials, they are now faced with canceling all of the construction projects -including a two-story gallery - that would have celebrated the crafting of the fourth state seal in their hometown. The seal maker, who used leftover gold for private purposes and cheated many people, said that he had made the fourth state seal in Sancheong.

The fraud was confirmed by a police investigation Wednesday.

“We are all shocked,” said Lee Jae-geun, Sancheong County magistrate.

According to the county, the work on the seal was to be done through cooperation between the county and Min because he was appointed chief of the government’s seal management team in 2007 by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.

County officials said they invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build structures in celebration of the seal and for the workplace called Jeongakjeon. Min invested 200 million won ($170,000) in the workplace to build the seal there, while the county invested 500 million won.

Four billion won of the county’s budget was used for the Deunghwangjeon gallery, but construction was suspended last February because of a lack of funds, according to the county.

The county said it needs two billion won more to complete construction, which is scheduled for 2011.

According to the county, Min proposed building the gallery and had an agreement with a construction company to build exhibitions.

“Min promised to pay about 400 million won for one of the buildings,” said a chief of the construction company.

Said Magistrate Lee: “After we see how the police investigation is going, we will take measures [to take over] structures that are currently under the construction or use them for other purposes.”

By Hwang Sun-yoon [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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