Top Incheon judge detained for his own safety

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Top Incheon judge detained for his own safety

After grilling a judge for half a day about whether he took bribes of 150 million won ($133,720) from former Nature Republic CEO Jung Woon-ho, prosecutors decided to arrest the judge - for his own safety.

They asked a local court for a pretrial detention warrant for Kim Soo-cheon, chief judge of the Incheon District Court.

“During questioning, the judge showed signs of angst and mentioned something like taking his own life or making extremely serious choices,” said a prosecution official. “So the prosecutors decided not to send him home but to arrest him.”

Kim is being detained at a state correctional institution in southern Seoul.

He is suspected of taking bribes worth some 150 million won in return for lobbying on behalf of Jung, who was embroiled in an illegal gambling scandal last year followed by a string of additional violence and lobbying charges this year.

According to prosecutors, Jung sold Kim his Range Rover SUV for 50 million won in 2014. Evidence surfaced that Jung may have returned the 50 million won to Kim last year, prosecutors said, raising suspicions that the car was a bribe.

Jung and Kim are reportedly friends and even went on a trip to Vietnam together, with Jung allegedly footing the bill.

The prosecution also found evidence that some five to six checks, each worth 1 million won and issued in Jung’s name, were transferred to a bank account belonging to one of Kim’s relatives.

Kim reportedly said they were condolence money for a family funeral. “Prosecutors found additional evidence of bribes from Jung to Kim,” said a prosecution official. “Counting everything, Kim may have received more than 150 million won in bribes from Jung.”

Kim is also accused of handing down a favorable ruling in three court cases about cosmetics retailers selling goods copying those of Nature Republic cosmetics, violating the Trademark Act.

A hospital director surnamed Lee who is the suspected middle man for some payments was indicted by prosecutors on Wednesday. Lee is accused of accepting some 90 million won from Jung in return for lobbying on his behalf.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, HYUN IL-HOON [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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