More fallout due to fake state seal; official loses post

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More fallout due to fake state seal; official loses post

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security announced yesterday that government officials involved in the state seal scandal will be penalized - with the vice governor of Jeju Island losing his post - for lack of supervision over the making of the seal.

The ministry said it will deprive a medal of honor for Min Hong-gyu, the seal maker, who lied about his manufacturing method and pocketed leftover gold from the great seal.

The ministry said the fourth state seal will be abolished and replaced by a fifth one that will be made next year.

“We found out that then-government officials were ignorant of confirming Min’s qualifications to figure out if he had really known how to make the seal in the traditional method,” said Kim Sang-in, a ministry spokesman. “We will punish the eight officials who were responsible for supervising the manufacturing process.”

Hwang In-pyeong, the previous director of the seal project and the current vice governor of Jeju Island, will lose his post and be subject to penalty, the ministry said. The ministry found out that Hwang did not pay full attention to how the seal manufacturing was proceeding and received a smaller version of the state seal from Min.

The ministry said it found that one more official who accepted another miniature seal from Min was Choi Yang-sik, the mayor of Gyeongju, South Gyeongsang.

After the seal scandal was exposed, the ministry decided to cancel other medals of honor given to five members of Min’s seal project team.

The ministry said it will cancel a plan for incorporating “the seal gallery and workshop” in Sancheong, South Gyeongsang, which Min had arranged in cooperation with the city.

In the meantime, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency believes Min gave bribes to a journalist who wrote 10 articles spotlighting the maker’s ability without any evidence and received three mini gold seals and 14 million won ($12,037) in cash from Min.

Police said Min used the journalist to write articles saying, “the fourth state seal should be made in a traditional method and Mr. Min is the right person to be the seal maker.”

Ministry officials who read the articles selected Min, though they knew Min was not fully qualified for the position, according to police.

Police also found out that Min asked a civic group to produce papers promoting him and distributed them to the public. The Web site of the civic group is now temporarily closed.

Two more journalists and other civic groups are under investigation to determine if they promoted Min’s qualification and received bribes as well, police said.

The seal project, started in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, was supposed to make the fourth state seal, which the president uses to stamp papers involving important affairs.


By Han Eun-hwa, Lee Han-gil [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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