Koh questioned on envelope claim

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Koh questioned on envelope claim


Whistle-blowing Representative Koh Seung-duk, right, appears at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho, southern Seoul, yesterday. [YONHAP]

The ruling party was holding its breath and the opposition sharpening its knives as Grand National Party lawmaker Koh Seung-duk went before prosecutors yesterday to answer questions about the allegation that he was offered a bribe to vote for the head of the party.

Koh dropped a bombshell last week when he announced that a former party chairman had attempted to buy his vote in a leadership election by giving him an envelope stuffed with 3 million won ($2,600) in cash. Ko said he rejected the money but the candidate won the election.

Koh did not announce publicly which GNP leader he was describing. But media reports said he told prosecutors the name yesterday and they will summon the suspect.

The local media reported Friday that National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae was the person who tried to buy Koh’s vote during the 2008 chairmanship election and that Kim Hyo-jae, the Blue House senior secretary for political affairs, delivered the envelope to Koh. Park and Kim denied the media reports.

Before going before prosecutors yesterday, Koh told reporters he “didn’t intend the names to be discussed,” and said he was “puzzled by the way this is going.” But he also said he believed that “nothing should be hidden from the public.”

Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae left the country yesterday for an 11-day trip to Japan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka, which was planned months earlier. Park is visiting Japan to attend the 20th Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum and the other three countries for diplomatic reasons.

The cash-for-vote scandal, which follows an investigation into ruling party lawmakers’ aides involvement in a cyberattack on the National Election Commission’s Web site on the day of the Seoul mayoral by-election, has prompted some GNP representatives to say that current plans to reform the party are insufficient, and that the party should be disbanded and apologies tendered to the voting public.

Representative Nam Kyung-pil said yesterday, “During the reformist meeting on Friday, we agreed that the party must be dissolved and recreated if prosecutors say that the allegations about Representative Koh are true.”

Representative Chung Doo-un said yesterday, “As the party is falling into a bottomless pit, we must dissolve it and create a new one.”

Representative Won Hee-ryong, who recently quit the party’s Supreme Council, said, “In order to cut away a system and people that are imbued with corruption, reforming the party is inevitable.”

Some repercussions of the scandal are touching the opposition too.

Rhyu Si-min, a leader of the New Progressive Party, said Friday that he had “experienced and witnessed the distribution of money and other valuables [within one of the parties before party chairmanship elections].” He added, “As power flows up to the chairman of a party, candidates are often tempted to use unjust ways to win the seat.”

After Rhyu’s remark, the opposition Democratic Unity Party said there would be no bribes in its upcoming leadership election because over 600,000 ordinary citizens will participate by voting in person or via text message or mobile phone.

By Yim Seung-hye, Park Jin-seok [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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