Former Assembly speaker convicted for vote-buying

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Former Assembly speaker convicted for vote-buying

A former National Assembly speaker was convicted yesterday for his attempt to buy votes in the 2008 leadership election of the ruling Grand National Party.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down an eight-month prison term to Park Hee-tae, who served as the head of the legislature from June 2010 to February this year, on charges of violating the law governing political parties.

The 74-year-old politician, however, managed to avoid imprisonment as the court suspended the sentence for two years.

Park was indicted in February after then Representative Koh Seung-duk of the Grand National Party (now Saenuri Party) made a stunning announcement in January by claiming that there was an attempt to buy his vote during the 2008 leadership election of the party.

Following a probe into the scandal, the prosecution indicted Park in February, making him the first incumbent leader of the legislature to face criminal prosecution.

The court also convicted Kim Hyo-jae, a former presidential aide who had worked as the chief manager of Park’s campaign in 2008, and handed down a six-month suspended prison term. Jo Jeong-man, a senior aide to Park who served as campaign finance manager, was also convicted of the vote-buying attempt and fined 5 million won ($4,298).

“The attempt to buy votes during the chairmanship election of the ruling party, which has a significant influence on state affairs, is a serious crime,” the court said, explaining its reasons for handing down the prison term, instead of ordering Park to pay fines.

After the court handed down the verdict, Park said he will consult with his lawyer whether to appeal the sentence or not.

According to the prosecution, Park, Kim and Jo were accused of providing an envelope stuffed with 3 million won to Koh on the eve of the July 3 leadership election in 2008, which Park won.

Koh said he later returned the money to Park’s camp but decided to inform the public about what had happened in 2008 because he wanted to stop the tradition of bribe-laden elections. Under the nation’s law governing political parties, a vote-buying attempt is punishable by up to three years in prison or up to 6 million won in fines.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr ]

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