‘I gave reps gifts, money,’ security guard exec says

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‘I gave reps gifts, money,’ security guard exec says

An executive of a security-guard association admitted in court testimony on Tuesday that he gave gold, gift certificates and money to lawmakers and their aides to seek votes on a law. His testimony could end the political lives of several ruling and opposition legislators.

Kim Yeong-cheol, 51, and two other executives of the Cheongmok Club were indicted on charges of giving bribes to both ruling and opposition lawmakers in exchange for votes for legislation governing security-guard pay and retirement . During a trial session Tuesday, Kim admitted giving a 37.5-gram gold key worth about 2 million won ($1,700) to Democratic Party Representative Choe Kyoo-sik.

Asked by a prosecutor if he had given the gold key to Choe after the National Assembly approved a revision bill governing welfare benefits for security guards in December 2009, Kim admitted he had. During the trial, Kim also admitted to giving gift certificates to Choe’s aide.

“His aide told me in October last year that Choe had used his influence to advance voting on the bill at a subcommittee of the National Assembly’s Government Administration and Home Affairs,” Kim testified.

He also said he had given money to an aide of Liberty Forward Party Representative Lee Myoung-soo because he had submitted a similar bill. Executives of the Cheongmok Club, an association for security guards, gave about 1.5 million won to Lee’s aide on April 9, 2009, Kim said, adding that the lawmaker’s office had informed the association whenever progress on the bill was made in the legislature.

Kim also testified that the offices of Representative Choe and Grand National Party Representative Ryu Jung-hyun had advised the Cheongkok Club on how to donate money by using a legal loophole.

Under the current law, donations of less than 100,000 won ($88.50) are allowed without documentation of the donor’s identity. In the Cheongmok Club scandal, members of the association gave lawmakers several small donations that eventually added up.

Prosecutors have questioned three of six lawmakers who are suspected of receiving bribes. Three GNP lawmakers - Ryu, Kwon Kyung-seok and Cho Jin-hyeong - were questioned, but three opposition lawmakers, including the DP’s Choe and Kang Gi-jung and the LFP’s Lee - have yet to appear for prosecutor questioning.

Since the first investigation began in February, the Seoul Northern District Prosecutors’ Office traced transaction records for eight months to find a link between lawmakers and the Cheongmok Club. In October, 11 club executives were arrested and three detained.

By Lee Han-gil [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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