Journalist accused of taking bribe is under travel ban

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Journalist accused of taking bribe is under travel ban

Prosecutors slapped a travel ban on the former top journalist who is accused of taking bribes from Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME), officially kicking off a probe that promises to look into “every little detail.”

The decision on Wednesday was made two days after Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party gathered reporters at the National Assembly’s press room and said that Song Hee-young, 62, former executive editor and chief editorial writer at the Chosun Ilbo, traveled around Europe for nine days in September 2011 on a jet chartered by DSME. The trip would have cost at least 200 million won ($178,000) for accommodations, transportation and dining, he said, adding that it was all in exchange for writing articles favorable to the debt-ridden company.

Referencing documents from the Korea Development Bank, the largest shareholder in DSME, the lawmaker said Song was accompanied by then-DSME CEO Nam Sang-tae, then-Vice CEO Ko Jae-ho and also Park Soo-hwan, president of News Communication, a PR agency that worked for Daewoo.

Park, Nam and Ko are currently all under arrest for their involvement in a separate case regarding DSME accounting irregularities.

Rep. Kim initially brought up the alleged bribery case last Friday but did not reveal any names. On Monday, he went further with the accusation by detailing the group’s itinerary, disclosing the journalist’s name and claiming Song had committed “moral hazard,” which calls for legal punishment.

Song quit his position hours later on Monday and left the company the following day. After several denials, the former executive editor admitted he “misbehaved” during his “business trip” through a statement carried out by the paper.

On Wednesday, prosecutors said they would investigate every accusation regarding Song “one step at a time,” including the newest allegation brought up Tuesday, when a high-ranking official at the Saenuri Party accused Song of lobbying the Blue House in April 2015.

The source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Song tried to push a “key figure” in the Blue House to help Ko Jae-ho run a second term as DSME CEO at that time. Ko was on the same trip to Europe in 2011 with Song, but as vice-CEO, not CEO. Ko was promoted in 2012 for a three-year term.

According to the Saenuri source, the Blue House key figure responded to Song that the presidential office could not interfere in the matter. Ko’s term ended last year.

“I heard they met at Song’s office in the Chosun Ilbo building,” the Saenuri official said. “Around that time [when Ko’s term was about to end], the Blue House received a lot of requests asking to pull strings so Ko could run a second term.”

The Blue House said over the telephone with the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday it couldn’t confirm the account.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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