CN Communications probe widens

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CN Communications probe widens

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SUNCHEON, South Jeolla - The prosecution said yesterday it will widen the investigation into the election fraud allegations involving a public relations company operated by Unified Progressive Party Representative Lee Seok-gi, announcing that all campaigns managed by CN Communications in 2010 will be probed.

The prosecution also hinted at the possibility of summoning the first-term lawmaker, who has been marred by the pro-Pyongyang controversy.

The Suncheon branch of the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office raided Lee’s two companies, CN Communications and the Social Trend Institute, Thursday to investigate the election fraud allegations. CN Communications is a consulting and marketing company, and the Societal Trend Institute is an opinion survey firm.

Before the raids, the prosecution said it was investigating the allegations that CN Communications had inflated campaign bills of two liberal candidates in the election for education office head in 2011.

Chang Man-chai, head of the South Jeolla education office, and Jang Hui-guk, head of Gwangju’s education office, used Lee’s firm at the time, and the prosecutors suspected that the CN Communication fabricated bills for the two candidates so that they could receive higher reimbursements from the National Election Commission.

Under the law, an election winner can be reimbursed for campaign expenses by the National Election Commission. Chang won the election and charged his expenses to the commission, including Lee’s fees. The prosecution suspected that the two candidates overbilled the election commission more than 600 million won ($515,000) in total.

In addition to the two cases, the prosecution said it will look into all campaigns that CN Communications worked on during the 2010 local elections and education chief elections.

“All candidates who hired CN Communications in 2010 are subject to our probe,” said Min Yeong-seon, a senior prosecutor of the Suncheon branch.

The political calendar for 2010 was extremely busy. In addition to the June 2 local elections, by-elections also took place in July and October. Most UPP hardcore members ran in the July legislative by-elections with campaign contracts with Lee’s company.

In the June 2010 local election, Lee’s firm represented Kwak No-hyun, the scandal-ridden liberal chief of the Seoul education office.

The prosecutors said they will complete an analysis of the confiscated data before the end of the weekend.

By Choi Kyung-ho, Ser Myo-ja[myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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