Suicide note impacts bribery probe

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Suicide note impacts bribery probe

The suicide note of a former president of the state-run railway regulator, who committed suicide while being investigated over bribery accusation, suggests that political forces may have played a role in the alleged scandal.

Kim Kwang-jae, who served as the president of the Korea Rail Network Authority (KRNA) until January, stood accused of taking bribes from the chairman of AVT, a railway parts supplier, according to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

Saenuri Party Deputy Spokesman Kwon Young-mo, who is also an adviser for AVT, acted as a middle man, they said, handing over some 30 million won ($29,640) to Kim with the expectation that Kim favor the company in its bids.

Investigators initially assumed that the alleged exchange was a scam between public regulators and the industries with which they were colluding, but the details in Kim’s suicide note appear to indicate that he was forced to take the money.

“The temptations of political power have drawn me down the wrong path,” his note read. “At the end of the road was lobbying from corporations.”

Kim and Kwon are both graduates of Yeungnam University and are believed to have been friends. Kwon is also reportedly close to the chairman of AVT, surnamed Lee.

Sources of the public railway company said that Kim hungered for power and had aspirations to become a politician. “He always wanted to be a lawmaker,” said a source who formerly worked at the Korea Rail Network Authority. “So he needed to build close ties with lawmakers and members of the party to be nominated. I think he would find it really hard to reject offers by any person close to the party.”

The court yesterday issued an arrest warrant for Kwon on charges of bribery and violating Korea’s Attorney-at-Law Act. He is also accused of receiving kickbacks worth 200 million won from AVT after lobbying Kim.

The prosecution obtained testimony that Kwon introduced influential lawmakers and members on the Land, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee to Kim and Chairman Lee, hinting at other lawmakers who might have been involved in the case.

When Kim was sworn in as the president of the KRNA, he vowed to eliminate cozy relations between the authority and railway industries.

However, he was implicated in a number of accusations alleging that he took bribes from the supplier as well as a local construction company.

In a separate case earlier this year, Kim was suspected of favoring construction company Sampyo E&C. The accusation surfaced after the KRNA awarded Sampyo a contract worth about 40 billion won to supply parts during Kim’s term at the public corporation. The parts provided by Sampyo were allegedly defective.

The railway authority apparently also awarded a series of deals worth 200 billion won to AVT during his term, some of which were exclusive.

The investigation surrounding Kim was part of a wide-ranging investigation aimed at eliminating corruption in government agencies that oversee industries.

BY LEE YOO-JEONG, PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joonagng.co.kr]




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