Lee aide found dead before facing scandal probe

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Lee aide found dead before facing scandal probe

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A close confidant of President Lee Myung-bak has been found dead without any scars or wounds on his body.

Police are investigating the connection between his death and a sex scandal that involves a South Korean ruling party lawmaker. Kim Byoung-il, a 55-year-old high-profile official, who was the incumbent secretary general of the National Unification Advisory Council, was found dead on Monday in a residential apartment in Hong Kong.

As a special aide to President Lee, he served as a former spokesman for the Seoul Metropolitan Government and a senior member of the presidential committee. Local police in Hong Kong said that there were no signs of harm on Kim’s body.

His family told police that Kim wasn’t in a good mood these days and was suffering from depression, and said he might have died of a heart attack.

But police said they assumed that Kim committed suicide. Police didn’t divulge how Kim’s body looked when they found him. Before he died, South Korean police ordered him to be questioned over a sex scandal which involved a ruling party lawmaker.

Police said that Kim was arranging his flight schedule to return to Korea. The sex scandal dates back to March 15, ahead of the April 11 legislative election. An unidentified man posted on his Yahoo blog that Representative Chung Woo-taik from the ruling Saenuri Party allegedly was provided with sexual services and free golf rounds on Jeju Island by a business lobby group in 2007, when Chung was governor of North Chungcheong. The post also alleged that Chung was having an affair with a female Japanese restaurant owner.

The post went viral on the Internet.

Chung accused three people of spreading the post and asked police to investigate who else was involved in its dissemination. Police found that Kim posted the link on his Facebook account and they called Kim in for questioning to see if he was involved.

At the time, he told police, “I never saw that post on my Facebook account or linked to it. I think my account was hacked.” On March 27, Kim left the country for Hong Kong for unknown reasons. On the day Kim departed, Chung dropped the charges against the three aides, saying he found “evidence that a different person was involved in the case.”

Yahoo headquarters wouldn’t provide the personal information of the user who uploaded the post, because the user created the account in Hong Kong. To question Kim over these suspicions, police requested an arrest warrant and asked Kim to come to the North Chungcheong Police Agency, but Kim didn’t return.

Instead, he was found dead.

By Jeong Won-yeob [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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