Former rail authority boss jumps into the Han

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Former rail authority boss jumps into the Han

A former president of the national railway construction and safety authority committed suicide yesterday after he was implicated in two cases of alleged bribery by railway parts companies.

Kim Kwang-jae, 58, who was president of the Korea Rail Network Authority until January, jumped to his death from Jamsil Bridge spanning the Han River at around 3:30 a.m. The police found shoes, a notebook and a wallet presumed to belong to Kim on the bridge. They recovered his body from the river at 5:30 a.m.

In a three-page suicide note in the notebook, Kim wrote, “I am sorry. I feel gratitude and pity for those who supported me.”

Kim was under investigation following testimony from a Saenuri Party spokesman that Kim received 40 million won ($39,640) from the chairman of AVT, a supplier of railway parts, who is surnamed Lee.

Kwon Young-mo, senior deputy spokesman for the Saenuri Party, said that he delivered the money to Kim in the hopes that the state-run agency would award orders to the parts company.

Kwon was summoned for questioning on Wednesday while Lee was questioned last month. Prosecutors said that they traced Lee’s bank accounts and confirmed a withdrawal of 40 million won.

Kim and Kwon are both graduates of Yeungnam University and are believed to be friends. Kwon is also reportedly close to Lee of AVT.

The investigation into Kim might have been particularly intense because the Park Geun-hye administration has vowed to eliminate rampant corruption in the government agencies that oversee industries following the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April. Such corruption is believed to have been a factor in that tragedy.

The government embarked on a wide-ranging investigation into the railway industry and public railway regulators after the Sewol disaster.

In a separate case, Kim was suspected of favoring a construction company, Sampyo E&C. The accusation arose after the Korea Rail Network Authority (KRNA) awarded Sampyo a contract worth around 40 billion won to supply parts during Kim’s term at the public corporation.

Allegedly, the parts provided by Sampyo had many defects.

The parts in question were precast slab track, concrete panels that are placed beneath rails to provide track stability.

Under the contract signed in 2011, Sampyo E&C was to supply precast slab track on a stretch of the Jungang line near Mangmi Tunnel in Gyeonggi.

Sampyo’s prefabricated products were tested after the signing of the contract by the Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail), which operates the Jungang line.

Korail issued a warning to the KRNA that there were cracks between the panels in the test section of the Jungang line.

Despite the warnings, the KRNA went ahead with its plan and signed more deals with Sampyo.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]




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