Prosecutors investigate DUP’s vote-buying case

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Prosecutors investigate DUP’s vote-buying case

Prosecutors yesterday raided the office of a former Blue House secretary who recently declared he would run in the April legislative race, following the allegation that he was involved in the opposition party’s vote-buying scandal during the leadership primary in December 2011.

In the run up to the April election that will have a significant impact on December’s presidential race, both ruling and opposition parties are scrambling over so-called cash envelope scandals.

Just weeks after accusations that the ruling Grand National Party’s former chairman Park Hee-tae gave envelopes stuffed with cash to his fellow lawmakers to win the 2008 leadership election, prosecutors were tipped off that the major opposition Democratic United Party also had a similar problem.

According to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, Kim Gyeong-hyeop, a former presidential secretary during late president Roh Moo-hyun’s administration, allegedly distributed cash envelopes to DUP lawmakers at the Seoul KyoYuk MunHwa HoeKwan, the party’s venue for watching the election results, in southern Seoul, in December 2011.

Kim supported Han Myung-sook at the time and recently announced his candidacy in the April election as a DUP candidate.

Prosecutors obtained footage of 48 CCTV cameras at the DUP election venue, and saw Kim distributing envelopes to about 10 DUP lawmakers.

In early January, rumors spread that a party candidate for the leadership primary distributed from 500,000 won ($445) to 5 million won to each lawmaker based in South Gyeongsang. The party launched an internal probe into the allegation, but it fizzled out in two days. A group of conservative civic activists filed an accusation against the DUP and prosecutors launched an investigation.

On Jan. 19, a DUP lawmaker dropped a bombshell accusation to KBS that he saw “some camp members [of Han Myung-sook] trading money with the party’s voters just 30 or 40 minutes before they voted. Han distributed lots of money on Dec. 24 and 25 for the primary, competing with other candidates as well, giving about 3 million won to each voter.” A string of accusations by DUP lawmakers followed after, according to the prosecution.

Unlike the large-scale election on Jan. 15, the scale of the primary was small, with only 762 eligible voters, according to the prosecution.

However, Kim’s aide told Yonhap News Agency that the envelopes that Kim distributed didn’t contain any money, and they were just invitations for Kim’s publication ceremony for his new book.

“Kim came to the leadership election on Dec. 26 to meet with many lawmakers to invite them to his publication ceremony on Jan. 4,” the aide said. “I recall that Kim brought about 100 invitations in a paper bag at the time.”

Kim also told the JoongAng Ilbo in a telephone interview on Monday that “I didn’t work for a specific candidate for the leadership race because I was busy preparing my campaign in other cities. I don’t know anything about cash envelopes.”

Prosecutors said that the CCTV footage isn’t that clear so Kim might not be the culprit.

With the GNP’s case, prosecutors summoned another aide to Park Hee-tae yesterday, who was in charge of accounting at Park’s camp in 2008.

By Kim Hee-jin, Park Jin-seok []
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