Reps’ aides queried on guards’ donations

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Reps’ aides queried on guards’ donations

The Seoul Northern District Prosecutors’ Office summoned accountants of ruling Grand National Party Representatives Kwon Kyung-seok and Ryu Jung-hyun, who are suspected of taking 10 million won ($8,989) each in return for their support for a bill that boosted the security guards’ salaries and delayed their retirement age.

Prosecutors plan to summon the lawmakers after the G-20 Summit in Seoul ends.

This is the first time that aides of lawmakers have been summoned for questioning in connection with the alleged influence-peddling scandal involving a security guards association.

The summonses come after prosecutors last Friday infuriated both ruling and opposition politicians by raiding the offices of 11 of the 33 lawmakers who are suspected of taking cash in return for their vote on the legislation.

The bill called for revisions to the law governing security guards, extending their retirement age to 60 from 59 and raising their monthly salaries.

The bill was passed last December and went into effect in July. According to prosecutors, the association donated a total of 270 million won in the names of over 1,000 security guards or their families to 33 lawmakers.

Prosecutors originally planned to summon the Kwon’s chief of staff but they decided to summon Kwon’s former accountant because his chief of staff started working for Kwon after December.

Prosecutors also summoned the chief of staff to Democratic Party Representative Kang Gi-jung, who allegedly received 10 million won from the association, but Kang’s aide refused to turn himself in for questioning.

The Democratic Party on Monday said it won’t respond to the prosecution’s summonses.

“We will never cooperate with [the prosecution’s summonses] as they are a government maneuver to portray ruling and opposition party figures as shameless lawmakers who pocket money from needy people,” DP floor leader Park Jie-won said in a meeting with senior DP officials on Monday.

Of the11 lawmakers whose offices were raided, five belong to the DP, five to the GNP and one to the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party.

The prosecution also requested an aide to Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Lee Myoung-soo to appear for questioning, but the aide said he was busy. The aide and the prosecution are discussing another timetable.

Prosecutors said that if aides or accountants to lawmakers continue to refuse to appear for questioning, they will consider obtaining arrest warrants from a local court.

Meanwhile, a fissure developed in the reactions of the ruling Grand National Party and opposition Democratic Party.

The raid had infuriated both parties’ politicians, who claim the security guards association’s payments were “legitimate political donations” and say the “excessive” investigation infringes on lawmakers’ legislative activities. Both parties initially came together to condemn Friday’s raids, but the GNP decided to cooperate with the prosecution’s summonses.

“This is a mature way to respect the law,” said GNP floor leader Kim Moo-sung in a meeting with GNP senior officials.

Meanwhile, floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties met yesterday and agreed to hold a question-and-answer session today at the National Assembly regarding the security guards association probe.

The National Assembly’s Public Administration and Security Committee yesterday started reviewing next year’s budget.

Politicians also agreed to pass a bill regulating “super supermarkets” today and pass a bill that promotes cooperation between conglomerates and small and midsized firms on Nov. 25.

By Kim Mi-ju []
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