Kickback scandal casts wider net

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Kickback scandal casts wider net

A prosecution probe into the political funding scandal of the People’s Party is widening, as the party’s former secretary general Park Sun-sook has been asked to show up at the prosecutors’ office on Monday, while her deputy Wang Ju-hyeon faces an arrest warrant.

Park will be the third People’s Party lawmaker to be summoned by prosecutors on the kickback scandal.

Since early June, the party’s youngest lawmaker and newly elected proportional representative Kim Su-min has been mired in prosecution investigations over allegations that she received illegal political funds during the April 13 general election. Kim was in charge of the public relations for the newly emerged centrist political party of Ahn Cheol-soo.

The National Election Commission (NEC) charged Kim for receiving some 200 million won ($170,614) in kickbacks from advertisement companies during the general election, which violates domestic election laws.

The probe turned onto other officials within the minor liberal party, when Kim pointed at former deputy secretary general Wang Ju-hyeon in her written opinion of counsel to the prosecutors last week. Kim claimed she was forced by Wang to receive kickbacks from advertisement companies.

Kim is the founder of the of start-up design company Brand Hotel, which provided campaign promotion materials for the People’s Party during the general election.

In her statement, Kim reportedly said Wang showed up at Brand Hotel with CEOs of a printing firm and a broadcast marketing company in mid-March, and requested Brand Hotel to sign contracts directly with the companies, and to “leave out anything about the People’s Party.”

Then Kim’s Brand Hotel received kickbacks from the two advertisement companies. The two companies, in essence, paid for advertisement costs that the party should have paid.

According to Kim’s statement, Wang allegedly said the party reported to the NEC that it internally produced the campaign promotion materials. The People’s Party then made a request for the reimbursement of campaign promotion materials, inflating the cost of those materials by 515 million won, according to the NEC.

Prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Wang on Friday, who faces charges of accepting illegal political funds and money swindling. The request’s validity will be decided on Monday, the same day that Park Sun-sook has been asked to appear at the prosecutors’ office. Prosecutors suspect Park may have been involved in her deputy’s alleged schemes.

The scandal has severely tainted the image of the People’s Party, which won 38 seats in the April general election based on its promise that it would practice a new way of doing politics.

The People’s Party formerly declared Kim Su-min innocent after its own investigation in mid-June.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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