Ethics division forced loyalists of Roh to quit jobs

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Ethics division forced loyalists of Roh to quit jobs

After being accused of illegally spying on critics of the current administration, the public ethics office of the prime minister is now accused of forcing loyalists of former President Roh Moo-hyun to quit their posts at state-run companies.

One such loyalist, a minister in the Roh administration, told JTBC Monday that he had been pressured to quit his job as head of a state-run corporation several months after President Lee Myung-bak was inaugurated.

“In late August [2008], some officials of the Prime Minister’s Office visited me,” the former minister, who requested anonymity, told JTBC in a telephone interview Monday. “They said they wanted me to tender my resignation because the Roh administration was over.”

He said he resisted the demand, telling them, “I don’t have to quit because it was the government that gave me the job.” The former minister had run the state-run corporation since 2005.

“But they told me, ‘If you don’t quit, a bunch of your subordinates will be dismissed,” he said.

The former minister resigned with three months left of his three-year term. The public ethics office is supposed to investigate corruption among civil servants. A labor union of the broadcaster KBS has obtained documents from the office and the Supreme Court that suggest the office spied on hundreds or even thousands of noncivil servants. They allegedly included critics of the current administration and loyalists of the Roh administration.

The Blue House said Sunday that many of the spying cases happened during the Roh administration, not the current administration.

The KBS union, whose members are on strike to protest political interference by the Lee administration, suspected that the Roh loyalists must have been pressured to resign because they left their jobs at state-run companies in the middle of their terms. The union also argues that the Blue House must have been involved in clearing out Roh’s loyalists, and says that some documents it has received said the spying was ordered by “BH,” the Blue House.

Political sources told the JoongAng Ilbo that former Senior Secretary to the President for Employment and Social Welfare Lee Young-ho allegedly gave a list of 80 people, mostly Roh loyalists, to the Prime Minister’s Office in June 2008.

Staffers of the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly analyzed former officials’ expenses paid for by government credit cards to fund personal spending.

“The Prime Minister’s Office launched a full-scale analysis of the credit card uses of Roh loyalists for two years and made most of them resign,” a source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“My resignation was definitely because of pressure from the public ethics office of the Prime Minister’s Office,” the former minister said. A former official of the Prime Minister’s Office told the JoongAng Ilbo that the former minister was investigated. “We just tried to check his suspicious housing purchase records,” the official said, “because he seemed to receive several million won from the government for housing, but he actually already had his own house.”

By Cho Hyun-suk, Ku Dong-hoi []
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