Testimony in money-for-legislation scandal

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Testimony in money-for-legislation scandal

Prosecutors will start questioning lawmakers on Friday over a money-for-legislation scandal involving a security guards’ association, the Seoul Northern District Public Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday.

Prosecutors have been looking into the possibility that the association, through the Cheongmok Club, gave money to both ruling and opposition lawmakers in exchange for legislative favors.

Subpoenas were already sent to several lawmakers last month, but the prosecution postponed the questioning due to North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

The lawmakers have said they will appear in front of the prosecution after the legislative session ends tomorrow.

The prosecutors have already scheduled the questioning of six lawmakers, according to a prosecution source.

“We have already decided the dates,” the source said. “The lawmakers will show up one after another starting Friday and we will complete the questioning by early next week.”

Democratic Party Representative Choe Kyoo-sik is reportedly to be questioned on Friday.

In addition to Choe, another DP lawmaker, Kang Gi-jung, and Liberty Forward Party Representative Lee Myoung-soo will be questioned, the source said.

Three Grand National lawmakers - Kwon Kyung-seok, Ryu Jung-hyun and Cho Jin-hyeong - are also to be summoned.

The money-for-legislation probe had hit an obstacle when, during the middle of the investigation, the lawmakers attempted to revise a law governing political fundraising.

Under the current political funding law, donations of less than 100,000 won ($88.50) are allowed without special documentation of donor identity.

There is also a 5 million won ceiling for an individual donor’s annual contribution to a politician.

In the Cheongmok Club scandal, the members of the association gave the lawmakers small donations that eventually added up to larger sums.

Prosecutors suspect that the donations to both ruling and opposition party lawmakers were made in exchange for their legislative support of a bill that boosted security-guard wages and delayed their retirement age.

The prosecutors have argued that the lawmakers and the association had used loopholes in the law, but the lawmakers and the association have argued otherwise.

While the political funding law’s interpretation became crucial, the ruling and opposition parties have attempted to revise the law to loosen restrictions for group and corporate donors.

A revision bill was submitted to the legislature on Nov. 22 and the National Assembly’s Public Administration and Security Committee scheduled a subcommittee session on Monday to vote on it this week.

The plan, however, met severe public criticism. And the legislature dropped the proposal on Monday.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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