Prime minister in hot seat over banking scandals

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Prime minister in hot seat over banking scandals

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Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, left, yesterday at his residence in Samcheong-dong, Seoul. [YONHAP]

After the ruling Grand National Party and opposition Democratic Party agreed to a National Assembly investigation into the massive corruption scandal surrounding savings banks, pressure is building on Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, the nation’s second-highest official, who was previously head of the Board of Audit and Inspection, which has been deeply implicated.

The Democratic Party said yesterday that it will summon Kim to testify about what the government watchdog did under his command in probing the deeply troubled banks.

DP lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee said they will ask Kim to elaborate on remarks he made in February.

In a February Assembly hearing, Kim testified that he “received pressure from everywhere” while investigating problems with the savings banks when he was chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection.

Kim, a former Supreme Court justice, served as chairman of the agency from September 2008 to September 2010. The BAI is an independent, constitutional agency that investigates expenditures of government money. It also conducted audits of the nation’s savings banks over the past few years.

“He’s concerned about the latest development related to his past remark,” a source told the JoongAng Ilbo, “because the intent of his remark was to stress that there were no suspicions about the audits into savings banks.”

Kim, who attended a meeting hosted by the Korea Business Council for Sustainable Development yesterday afternoon, refused to answer a journalist when asked what he meant when he said he “received pressure from everywhere.”

“It’s a matter that should be brought up at [the Assembly],” Kim said.

The Prime Minister’s Office doesn’t want Kim to have to testify at a National Assembly investigation. But to avoid it, the prime minister will have to satisfy lawmakers by answering questions at a regular meeting of the Assembly.

Massive corruption scandals involving Busan Savings Bank Group and Samhwa Mutual Savings Bank are being investigated by prosecutors. Busan Savings Bank executives have been indicted for financial crimes involving nearly 7.7 trillion won ($7.1 billion), and Samhwa Mutual Savings Bank executives are being prosecuted for lending 200 billion won illegally.

Prosecutors are checking allegations that the banks lobbied top government officials and politicians to prevent their businesses from being forcibly shut down. The two banks’ operations were suspended earlier this year, but suspicions have grown that the decision to shut them down was deliberately delayed.

Meanwhile, though the GNP agreed with opposition parties to launch a National Assembly inspection, the GNP and DP are after different targets.

The GNP is arguing that the previous two administrations, run by liberal parties, also have responsibility for the mess at the savings banks and that the probe must extend to wrongdoings committed by senior officials in the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments.

The DP said it was targeting Chung Jin-suk, senior secretary to the president for political affairs, and Kwon Jae-jin, senior secretary to the president for civil affairs, as officials who dealt with bank lobbyists.


By Kim Mi-ju, Lee Chul-jae [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

‘오만 군데’ 난감 … 김황식 총리 “국회서 얘기 나오겠지”

대정부질문 앞두고 답변 고심

김황식 국무총리는 지난달 30일 오후 서울 삼성동 인터컨티넨탈 호텔에서 허동수 GS칼텍스 회장 등 기업인 16명이 참가하는 지속가능발전기업협의회(KBCSD) 회원들과 만찬을 했다. 식사를 마치고 나가던 김 총리에게 기자가 “감사원장 재직 때 압력을 받았다는 ‘오만 군데’가 어디인지 밝힐 것인가”라고 물었다. 김 총리는 “국회에서 얘기가 나오겠지”라고만 했다.

김 총리는 현재 ‘오만 군데에서 압력을 받았다’는 발언 때문에 난처한 입장에 처해 있다. 총리실 관계자는 “김 총리가 ‘감사원의 저축은행 감사 결과에 의혹이 없다는 것을 얘기한 것인데 걱정스럽다’고 토로했다”고 전했다.

정창영 감사원 사무총장은 “김 총리가 감사원장 시절 오만 군데서 청탁·압력을 받았는지는 몰라도 우리에겐 저축은행 감사와 관련해 어떤 부당한 지시를 한 적이 없다”고 말했다. 그러면서 “김 총리는 통상 감사위원회에서 아무 말도 하지 않았는데, 그건 자신의 발언이 감사위원들의 감사 결과 심의에 영향을 미치지 않도록 하기 위한 것이었다”고 덧붙였다. 하지만 2일 시작하는 국회 대정부 질문부터 여야를 가리지 않고 강도 높은 추궁이 있을 것이라는 게 총리실의 예상이다. 민주당 박지원 전 원내대표는 31일 기자간담회에서 “김 총리가 오만 군데를 다 못 밝히겠다면 4만9999군데는 밝혀야 한다”고 으름장을 놓았다. 여권 관계자도 이날 “이명박 대통령이 이 문제를 돌파하는 데 부담이 되지 않도록 김 총리가 자신이 아는 모든 것을 밝혀야 한다”고 주문했다.

이런 분위기 속에서 총리실은 구체적인 답변 수위를 놓고 고민 중이다.

김 총리 측근들은 “총리가 ‘저축은행 업계’와 보도를 통해 알려진 ‘금융당국’으로부터 ‘봐달라’는 취지의 청탁이 있었다는 정도를 언급할 가능성이 있다”고 말했다. 정부 고위 관계자는 “당시 감사원은 금융권으로부터 ‘이제 감사원이 금융감독 권한까지 가지려는 거냐’는 압력을 받았다”며 “고위직부터 실무선까지 다양한 루트로 얘기가 들어와 김 총리가 ‘오만 군데’로 표현한 것으로 안다”고 전했다.

김 총리는 자신에게 전화를 한 인사들의 이름을 거론하진 않을 전망이다. 곳곳에서 전화가 걸려오긴 했으나 결국 ‘실패한 로비’였다는 점을 강조할 것이라고 한다. 이런저런 청탁과 부탁을 받았지만 철저한 감사를 지시했고, 그에 따라 감사 결과가 나왔다는 사실을 납득시키는 데 주력할 것이란 얘기다.

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