Suicide of Lee’s ally getting murkier

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Suicide of Lee’s ally getting murkier

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Police investigating the mysterious death in Hong Kong of a longtime ally of President Lee Myung-bak said he may have met with a blogger who was spreading rumors about a sex scandal and a ruling party lawmaker while in Hong Kong.

Kim Byeong-il, 55, was found dead hanging in the closet of a serviced apartment in Hong Kong Monday, according to the South China Morning Post. He left a note saying: “I had no other choice.”

With a doctorate in urban planning from the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), Kim served in key political posts around President Lee, including being a former spokesman for the Seoul Metropolitan Government, a senior member of a presidential committee, secretary general of the National Unification Advisory Council and chairman of a local education foundation in North Chungcheong.

Before he died, he was reportedly arranging his return to Korea to answer questions by police on whether he was involved in spreading rumors online about a sex scandal and a ruling party lawmaker.

According to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, police and fire officers were called to Harbourfront Horizon at about 1 p.m. on Monday after a call from the dead man’s 29-year-old daughter, Kim Bo-hyun, who had arrived from Seoul that morning with his 57-year-old wife, Kim Sam-bae. The daughter told officers no one answered the door, which was locked from inside. Firefighters broke it down and found Kim Byoung-il hanging in a wardrobe in the flat’s bedroom. He was declared dead by paramedics.

The sex scandal dates back to March 15, ahead of the April 11 general election.

Lee Wang-jae, a 43-year-old owner of a biodiesel company called Shinu Pvt. Ltd., 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.

Chung won a National Assembly seat representing Cheongju, North Chungcheong, in the April election,

Police said Lee started the blog, which was named Crime2Guilty, when he was staying in Hong Kong in October 2011. Lee was a former aide to Won Hee-ryong, a ruling Saenuri Party member who didn’t run in the April 11 legislative election. Lee used to be a ruling party member, but he defected to the main opposition Democratic United Party.

Police in Korea found that Kim posted the link on his Facebook account and called him in for questioning to see if he was involved in spreading rumors about the candidate. Kim denied any relations with the blogger and left for Hong Kong four days after his questioning, on March 27.

Police asked him to come back for questioning in the case and had an arrest warrant issued from a local court in April. But Kim never returned.

“Kim was a person who cared for his dignity, and he would have been shocked by the police’s demand for questioning after he failed to be nominated as a candidate for the April election,” a close friend of Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Jeong Won-yeob, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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