Gwangju forged guarantees in bid

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Gwangju forged guarantees in bid

The mayor of Gwangju wanted to host the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships so much that he forged pledges of financial guarantees from the prime minister and culture minister.

The forgeries were announced by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism just hours before FINA, or the Federation Internationale de Natation, was scheduled to announce the winning city yesterday. It chose Gwangju.

“I attribute the achievement to 1.5 million Gwangju citizens,” said a delighted Mayor Kang Un-tae after the announcement. “We’ll use the event as an opportunity to enhance the image of the city.”

Gwangju refiled its bid without the forged pledges in June.

The Culture Ministry will hold a press conference Monday to express its position.

“The host city will be announced today but the government will file complaints against the mayor no matter what the outcome is,” a ministry source said hours before the FINA announcement at 7:30 p.m. local time last night. “Even if the city wins the bid, the central government will not offer financial support.”

The Culture Ministry announced yesterday afternoon that Gwangju Mayor Kang forged the signatures of former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and former Culture Minister Choi Gwang-sik when the city submitted a statement of financial guarantees last year in its bid.

The faked document said the central government would offer the same kind of financial support to the swimming event that it did for the 2011 World Championships in Athletics held in Daegu.

The central government spent 73.9 billion won ($66.1 million) on the Daegu championships.

The bid was submitted to FINA last October. But according to a senior official of the Culture Ministry, “No specific decision was made about the exact amount of financial assistance [by the central government].”

FINA announced the host city of the 2019 event at the opening of the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona yesterday.

The Gwangju City government yesterday held an emergency meeting under Mayor Kang as it scrambled to deal with the embarrassing revelation.

“We made a mistake in the first draft,” claimed an official of the Gwangju city office who didn’t want to be named, “So we later made some corrections and the final version gets things right.”

The government first detected the documents with the forged signatures in April when FINA inspectors met current Prime Minister Chung Hong-won. The government subsequently informed Gwangju that it would bring criminal charges and city officials requested it wait until FINA announced the host city for 2019.

“We accepted their plea and haven’t filed any charges yet,” the government official said. “But we will take steps starting tomorrow.”

City officials replaced the fabricated bid with a proper one after the government found the irregularity. The final version of the bid, submitted June 17, only vaguely mentions that the central government will “actively support” the hosting.

City officials say hosting the event will bring estimated economic benefits of 1.4 trillion won to Gwangju and 2.4 trillion won for Korea as a whole.

BY PARK EUN-JEE, AND CHOI KYUNG-HO [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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