Far-right civic group accused of misusing public funds

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Far-right civic group accused of misusing public funds

The Korea Freedom Federation, a state-funded far-right civic group founded in 1954 under the banner of anti-Communism, is found to have embezzled nearly 1 billion won ($937,000) over a four year period since 2009, a special audit by the Ministry of Security and Public Administration into the organization revealed.

According to the audit, the group has committed as many as 28 illegal acts over the course of the embezzlement. The probe also revealed that the group’s senior members misappropriated the federation’s budget - some of which is tax-payer money - for personal use.

Park Chang-dal, the former KFF president, apparently withdrew 115 million won from the group’s bank account and used it to pay the deposit on his daughter’s studio apartment. He later gave the money back.

Other senior members were also found to have used the group’s budget for personal use, returning the money later. Park, 67, a former Saenuri lawmaker who worked on former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak’s presidential campaign team in 2007, is also accused of having received 340 million won during his turn as KFF president.

According to the federation’s articles of association, its presidential position is an honorary one. He was also found to have pocketed 100 million won when he resigned from his post earlier this year. According to Park, the 100 million won was “a retirement bonus” that was “agreed upon by the board members earlier.”

Another KFF senior-level official is accused of having received a 700,000 won monthly payment for maintenance on his business car provided by the group.

The special audit also discovered that the interest group did not record 800 million won worth of donations it received in the past three years. The group instead deposited the donations under the personal bank account of one of its employees. During the audit, the KFF could not come up with records detailing how the 800 million won donation had been spent.

The anti-Pyongyang group has a yearly budget of nearly 10 billion won and currently has 1.5 million members.

But this wasn’t the first time the Seoul-based civic group has come under fire for misappropriating tax payers’ money. In 2009, Kwon Jung-dal, another former KFF president, was convicted of embezzling 1 billion won and breach of trust. He was sentenced to three years in prison with a four-year suspended term.

More recently, the National Police Agency arrested three senior KFF members in April on charges that they embezzled a 130 million won government fund. The prosecution is still looking into that case.

In response to the embezzlement allegations, former KFF President Park, who led the group for four years and five months until he stepped down in July, stated: “I do not know the specifics of the probe because it was conducted after I stepped down.”

Kim Ho-wol, professor at Hongik Graduate School of Advertising and Public Relations, who participated in the special audit, called on the troubled organization to disclose its account book.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, KO SUNG-PYO [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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