Former PM stands trial for bribery

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Former PM stands trial for bribery

Only eight months after she was cleared of bribery charges, Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister under President Roh Moo-hyun, was back in court again yesterday on charges of receiving nearly 1 billion won ($880,000) in bribes from a construction company owner in 2007.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office obtained testimony from Han Man-ho, former head of the now-bankrupt firm Hansin Gunyoung, his driver and his accounting clerk that said the former prime minister received the bribes in cash and checks.

Han Myeong-sook, however, denied all the allegations when she appeared in court on Monday.

“I did not take any illegal political funds,” Han said. “I have not even thought about it.”

Han added that she was shocked to learn of the charge that she took a sack of money on the side of the road in the middle of the day, “by driving myself to get there, without any assistant or driver, during a National Assembly session.”

Said Han: “I can sympathize with former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun for their pain, as I was unfairly indicted twice.”

Han argued that the case is politically motivated, but prosecutors are singing a different tune.

“It is not a targeted investigation for political retaliation,” the prosecution said. “[We are] following legal proceedings. The case is to verify the truth; let’s not make political disputes.”

Opposition leaders, including Sohn Hak-kyu, Democratic Party chairman; Park Jie-won, DP floor leader; and Rhyu Si-min, former health and welfare minister, attended the trial.

The next session will be held on Dec. 20 at Seoul Central District Court, with the former CEO of the construction company testifying as a witness.

This is the second graft indictment against Han.

The former prime minister was indicted in December last year for accepting 56 million won in bribes from the former CEO of Korea Express, but was acquitted in April.


By Yoo Sun-young [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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