Official in Blue House resigns in graft scandal

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Official in Blue House resigns in graft scandal


Kang Hee-rak, ex-commissioner of the National Police Agency, turns himself in to the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday. By Cho Mun-gyu

A senior inspection official at the Blue House’s civil affairs office, Bae Geon-gi, tendered his resignation Sunday, shortly after he was named as one of the government officials who allegedly pocketed bribes from a construction cafeteria business owner.

In a related matter, Kang Hee-rak, the former National Police Agency commissioner, yesterday appeared before the prosecution to answer questions over allegations that he received 100 million won ($88,669) from the former cafeteria businessman, Yu Sang-bong.

“I apologize for causing troubles,” Kang told reporters before going to the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office.

Prosecutors will question Kang over whether he received 100 million won from Yu and whether he later gave Yu 40 million won to flee overseas. According to prosecutors, Yu told investigators that Kang offered him money to leave the country.

On Dec. 24, prosecutors barred Kang and former Korea Coast Guard Commissioner Lee Gil-beom from traveling abroad. The travel bans follow an investigation into several major construction companies whose senior executives were indicted for allegedly taking bribes from Yu and then hiring him to run makeshift cafeterias at construction sites.

Yu was indicted in November and is currently being investigated for allegedly offering bribes to Kang and Lee. Prosecutors plan to seek an arrest warrant for Kang today. Lee is scheduled to be summoned this week.

Bae Geon-gi, the Blue House inspection official, resigned after Yu told prosecutors that he gave Bae between 20 million won to 30 million won in return for favors.

“Bae submitted his resignation on Sunday and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security is in the process of dismissing him,” said Blue House spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung.

According to the Blue House, Bae admitted meeting Yu twice in 2009 but said that he didn’t take money.

A senior Blue House official said that Bae decided to leave the post because he “didn’t want to burden the presidential house.”

Bae told Blue House officials that he would take the matter to court to prove his innocence.

The Blue House refrained from making its official position on the ongoing influence-peddling and graft scandal, which could hurt President Lee Myung-bak’s initiatives on establishing a “fair society.”

“It’s not appropriate to make comments on a case that’s under investigation,” Kim, the spokeswoman, said.

Another senior Blue House official said the Blue House’s civil affairs office knew about the allegations against Bae, and they briefed President Lee in December.

The officials said Lee ordered his staff to “sternly deal with the matter regardless of the person’s title.”

“Though Bae insists on his innocence, the allegation gave another blow to the morality of the Blue House,” said another Blue House official who asked not to be named.

By Kim Mi-ju, Namkoong Wook []
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