Jailed ex-vice minister moved for nuke probe

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Jailed ex-vice minister moved for nuke probe

BUSAN - Park Young-joon, the former vice-minister of the Knowledge Economy, who is jailed for ordering illegal spying on government critics, has been transferred from Seoul to Busan to help a prosecutors’ investigation of corruption in the country’s nuclear energy industry.

The Ministry of Justice said yesterday that the 52-year-old appointee of former President Lee Myung-bak was sent to Busan prison from Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi, around 1 p.m. at the request of the eastern branch of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, which is handling the nuclear plants case.

Park was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 190.4 million won ($171,000) for illegally spying on government critics when he worked for the Lee administration.

But he was also allegedly involved in the nuclear power industry.

There are 26 people involved in the nuclear industry case already in Busan prison, some awaiting trial, including a 54-year-old influence broker named Oh Hee-taek.

Oh recently testified to the Busan prosecution that he paid bribes to Park, according to prosecution sources.

According to the prosecution, Oh allegedly received about 1.3 billion won from Hankook Jungsoo Industries from August to November 2010 after promising to help them win a contract to build a water purification facility for a UAE nuclear power plant project that Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) won in 2009.

In February 2011, Hankook Jungsoo Industries won a contract worth 96 billion won from Kepco for the UAE plant.

Oh told prosecutors he paid about 60 million won to Park Young-joon through Lee Yoon-young, 50, an acquaintance of Oh’s and a former high-ranking member of the ruling Saenuri Party.

Oh told prosecutors he gave 300 million won of Hankook Jungsoo’s 1.3 billion won to Lee in 50,000 won bills in the parking lot of a Buddhist temple in Seoul in February 2009. The prosecutors said that Lee has also admitted that portions of the money were allegedly given to Park.

Sources in the prosecution said they will likely expand their investigation to other former officials in the Lee administration.

Prosecutors currently suspect one former minister in the Lee administration and a former lawmaker were also involved in the nuclear industry racket.

“It’s too early to say we will expand the investigation to include them because we have to find evidence about the two,” a spokesman of the prosecution told the JoonAng Ilbo.

The prosecution will ask Park if he received bribes or exercised any influence to help Hankook Jungsoo win the contract.

They will also look into whether Park received bribes from other companies in the industry.

Last week, prosecutors arrested a 60-year-old executive of Korea Electric Power Corporation surnamed Park on suspicions that he took 130 million won in bribes between 2009 and 2010 from two reactor parts manufacturers in return for helping them win a supply contract.

BY WE SUNG-WOOK AND KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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