Presidential aide quits over probe

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Presidential aide quits over probe

After weeks of questioning the “super-lobbyist” at the center of the Busan Savings Bank scandal, prosecutors appeared to have found a connection to the Blue House as they ordered a top presidential official to appear for a questioning.

Kim Du-woo, senior secretary to the president for public affairs, tendered his resignation Thursday evening after he was summoned by the central investigation unit of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

Kim became the first incumbent Blue House senior secretary to leave his post over a graft scandal.

“I decided to step down because the prosecution informed me of the need to investigate me,” Kim said in a statement. “It is inappropriate to submit to a prosecution’s probe while working as a presidential senior secretary. I will leave the post and try my best to reveal the truth.”

Park Jeong-ha, Blue House spokesman, said President Lee Myung-bak did not show any special reaction to the situation. Asked if Lee accepted Kim’s resignation, Park said, “Kim expressed his intention to step down last night and cleared out his office.”

After Park Tae-gyu, the alleged super-lobbyist of the debt-ridden Busan Savings Bank Group, returned to Korea last month, prosecutors questioned him about allegations that he used his network of powerful political friends and officials to save the failed bank.

Although Kim has denied accusations that he was a target of Park’s allegedly complex web of bribery, a senior prosecution source said yesterday the investigation has produced circumstantial evidence serious enough to suspect his involvement.

Shortly after Kim submitted his resignation, the prosecution confirmed Thursday it asked Kim to submit to the investigation. “He will likely appear for questioning next week,” said Lee Keum-ro, a senior prosecutor of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office. “We are coordinating the schedule, but I cannot give details of his charges.”

Lee also refused to say whether Kim will be questioned as a suspect or a witness.

Despite media speculation that powerful politicians are expected to be questioned as the investigation proceeds, a prosecution source yesterday said no involvement of a politician has been revealed so far. He, however, refused to confirm if there are others involved.

Although the prosecution indicted Park and other executives of the Busan Savings Bank Group, the investigation has made little progress in identifying the targets of the lobbying, especially when Park fled the country in April. He returned voluntarily on Aug. 30.

According to the prosecution, the Busan Savings Bank Group gave a total of 1.7 billion won ($1.5 million) to Park for lobbying with 200 million won being returned later. The prosecutors have confiscated 600 million won from Park’s safe-deposit boxes at banks and at home and the remaining 900 million won was believed to be used for lobbying.


By Ser Myo-ja, Lee Dong-hyun [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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