Kickbacks were forced on me: Kim

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Kickbacks were forced on me: Kim

Kim Su-min, a newly elected proportional representative of the minor liberal People’s Party, has submitted a written opinion of counsel to prosecutors claiming to having been forced by the party’s former deputy secretary general to receive kickbacks from advertisement companies during the April 13 general election, sources from the Seoul prosecution said Friday.

The most recent development in the ongoing scandal surrounding Kim and two other representatives from Korea’s third-largest party came 16 hours after authorities from the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office summoned Kim for questioning.

The 29-year-old walked into the office at 9:50 a.m. on Thursday, telling reporters “there was no rebate” and that she will prove herself innocent during questioning. The youngest lawmaker in the newly elected National Assembly, Kim came back out the next day at 2:30 a.m. and said she was “fully committed” to the probe, without providing further details.

The People’s Party has yet to make a statement on the matter, while Ahn Cheol-soo, the party’s co-chairman, said he will take the matter seriously after prosecutors decide whether Kim’s claim is true or false. If Wang Ju-hyeon, the party’s former deputy secretary general, did in fact order Kim do as the young lawmaker reportedly claims, it would provide further evidence that the People’s Party may have violated domestic election laws.

The People’s Party has consistently denied it knew about the case or used the money. After an internal investigation, the party declared last week that it did not find any signs that the money was funneled into its pockets.

Kim, a proportional representative in charge of public relations, is accused of receiving some 238 million won ($202,906) in kickbacks from two advertisement companies. The National Election Commission (NEC) filed a complaint against Kim for alleged election law violations earlier this month, leading the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office to take action.

Prosecutors raided six offices of the advertising companies that were suspected of offering kickbacks to the lawmaker. The NEC also mentioned that Wang, the party’s former deputy secretary general, and Rep. Park Sun-sook, the former secretary general, worked as Kim’s accomplices.

The NEC said the two advertising companies should also be called in for questioning.

Before clinching her seat in the National Assembly, Kim headed the start-up design company Brand Hotel, which was selected to promote the People’s Party campaign during the April general election. The company reportedly received a total of 238 million won from its contractors, a printing firm and a broadcast marketing company, without having offered any services, according to the NEC.

These two companies allegedly signed fake contracts with Kim’s design company, and according to the election watchdog, the marketing company offered Kim’s Brand Hotel a total of 128 million won.

The other printing firm also appears to have provided Brand Hotel 110 million won in a similar fashion.

On Friday, the JoongAng Ilbo cited a close aide of Kim as saying that the 29-year-old was preparing to receive the required PR fees from the People’s Party, but then Wang ordered her to get the money from her contractors so the party could save on their campaign expenditures. Prosecutors are now tracking down how and why the money was channeled from the agencies to Kim’s company and whether the party used it for its campaign. The former secretary general is likely to be summoned Monday morning.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, CHAE YOON-KYUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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