Moon a focus in ‘resources’ probe

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Moon a focus in ‘resources’ probe

Amid a bipartisan clash over an investigation into one of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s signature initiatives, the chairman of the main opposition said that he would consider standing as a witness at a parliamentary hearing, in line with the ruling party demands.

The opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) has called for former President Lee to testify at an upcoming National Assembly hearing as part of a probe into losses incurred from his government’s resources diplomacy project.

The initiative was an attempt to secure natural resources for Korea through large investments overseas. However, most of those projects are now considered by many critics to have been expensive failures that cost the nation but benefitted individuals and companies.

The ruling Saenuri Party has so far resisted the opposition’s call, instead demanding that NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in, the former presidential secretary to Roh Moo-hyun, and other key officials from the administration appear for questioning.

“The [NPAD] leadership is planning a strategy for the witness-selection process involving Chairman Moon appearing [at the hearing],” a key NPAD official said Tuesday.

He added that Moon had conveyed to the party’s floor leadership that, “If necessary, I will appear at the parliamentary hearing.”

Moon’s offer to appear is seen as a means to pressure former President Lee and primary figures from his administration - including his brother, former lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk - to testify before the National Assembly.

The first in a series of hearings for the probe into resources diplomacy spending is scheduled for next week. However, a special investigative committee has yet to agree on exactly who should serve as witnesses at those sessions.

The ruling and opposition parties were initially scheduled to agree upon on a list of witnesses and hold a plenary session on Tuesday. In addition to Lee, the NPAD also demands that four other key officials from his administration testify as witnesses before parliament.

But the Saenuri is particularly adamant that Lee not be required to appear at the hearing.

Because of ongoing discord over the witness list, the plenary session was postponed.

“Lee Myung-bak has to appear [at the hearing,]” NPAD floor leader Woo Yoon-keun said on Tuesday at the National Assembly. “The prime minister designated overseas resource diplomacy as an area in which corruption must be eradicated. .?.?. The Saenuri Party alone is moving backwards.”

Moon told reporters on Tuesday that he would suggest the Saenuri undergo a “moral reawakening.”

“Calling upon me because I was the presidential secretary during the Roh Moo-hyun administration to argue over its overseas resources diplomacy failures is an outdated convention,” he added.

BY SARAH KIM, JEONG JONG-MOON [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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