Getting to the very bottomPark Young-joon, former vice minister of knowledge economy, was finally arrested and put in jail on Monday for having received bribes of 170 million won ($149,6000) from a former developer of the “pi-city” project in return for approving and expediting the glitzy redevelopment project in southern Seoul. With his arrest, everybody’s attention is on whether all the suspicions over the mighty minister’s shady deals will be cleared soon.
Park was one of the most powerful figures in the administration as seen by his various nicknames like “King secretary” or “King minister.” After serving as an aide to lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, President Lee’s brother who resigned over a corruption case, Park became one of the closest in President Lee’s inner circle. Regarding Park’s ever-growing clout, Chung Doo-un, a senior member of the ruling Saenuri Party, said that even though he had warned about Park’s abuse of power on several occasions, it didn’t work at all. Chung’s remarks testify to the absolute power Park wielded in the government.
We welcome the prosecution’s investigation of Park’s astounding derailment following its arrest of Choi See-joong, a political mentor to President Lee and former head of the Korea Communications Commission, for corruption.
However, political pundits argue the bribery case could be just the tip of an iceberg given rampant rumors that Park was involved in many illicit dealings with businessmen in exchange for money. We are closely watching prosecutors’ investigation to trace black money transfers between Park and his buddies. The prosecution has already found circumstantial evidence that he received tens of millions of won after being laundered through bank accounts in someone else’s name, not to mention the tangible evidence that hundreds of millions of won was deposited in his brother’s bank account. The money might have been used for lobbying for secret deals other than the pi-city project.
The prosecution must get to the bottom of the case. It should first summon Lee Dong-jo, chairman of the Pohang-based J&Tech and a close friend of Park’s, who has been staying in China. The prosecution must also ratchet up its investigation on whether Park has also been involved in the Prime Minister’s Office’s order to destroy evidence on illegal surveillance of critics and rivals of the government as well as CNK International’s stock price rigging over a diamond mine in Cameroon. The public has every right to know what kind of shady deals the powerful vice minister has made and with whom.