Disgraced former nuclear chief indicted for bribery

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Disgraced former nuclear chief indicted for bribery

Prosecutors yesterday indicted Kim Jong-shin, the former president of the corporation that runs the nation’s nuclear plants, on charges of taking bribes from a company in the industry.

A special investigation team at the Busan Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office probing the graft-stricken nuclear sector accused the 68-year-old former Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation chief of taking 130 million won ($115,960) from Hankook Jungsoo Industries, the state-run nuclear corporation’s subcontractor in charge of nuclear plant water management.

Prosecutors reported that Kim had taken the money from the 75-year-old president of the firm, identified only by his surname Lee, over five occasions between July 2009 and January of last year. Lee often handed over stacks of cash that Kim stashed in a water bottle box, they said.

Investigators believe 50 million won that Kim raked in in December 2011 was an illicit payment for having used his influence in inking a 59.7 billion won contract with Hankook Jungsoo in September 2011.

The deal was for the construction of nuclear plant water management facilities and three years worth of maintenance work. The subcontractor clinched four three-year deals in a row with KHNP starting in 2002, drawing envy from other nuclear plant firms and raising eyebrows over the successive contracts.

Kim reportedly acknowledged that he took the money, but denied it was in return for interfering in the bidding process. He insists instead that it was a personal gift.

Prosecutors are now widening their investigation to find out if any other former or incumbent officials at the nuclear corporation also took bribes.

They also aren’t ruling out the possibility that Kim might have been involved in other graft scandals during his five years at the KHNP helm. Appointed by former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2007, Kim led the corporation until May of last year.

Kim’s indictment marks a stunning fall from grace for the once-respected nuclear expert, who supervised the construction of the country’s first Gori nuclear reactor plant over the course of six years.

In 1995, Kim also took the lead in developing the Korean Standard Nuclear Power Plant, a protocol for the construction of such facilities. He has an extensive personal network in the global nuclear industry.

If convicted of taking bribes of over 100 million won, Kim could receive a minimum of 10 years in prison and could be fined up to five times the amount of kickbacks he received.

With the charges against Kim, the investigation into rampant graft in the nuclear industry is rushing full steam ahead, probing the upper echelons of the state-run corporation.

Prosecutors are also eyeing the possibility that influential government figures could be implicated in the scandal.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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