Key lawyer in scandal returning to Korea
A key figure in a land development scandal that has engulfed presidential race is expected to return home from the United States on Monday.
Lawyer Nam Wook, who left for the United States in mid-September before the investigation into the Daejang-dong land development project began, boarded an Incheon-bound flight in Los Angeles at 11:40 p.m. Saturday, local time.
He is expected to arrive at Incheon International Airport at 5 a.m. Monday.
Nam reportedly made 100.7 billion won ($84.14 million) through his company with a relatively small investment of 87.21 million won in the Daejang-dong land development in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, just south of Seoul.
Nam was reserved as he made his way through Los Angeles International Airport, only responding to the reporters gathered around him with the repeated promise that he would “say everything during the prosecutors’ investigation.”
Nam has emerged as a central figure in the Daejang-dong land development scandal since he told JTBC in an interview last week that Kim Man-bae, the owner of small asset management company Hwacheon Daeyu, promised 5 billion won to seven people who helped design the shareholder composition and profit distribution scheme of the Daejang-dong development consortium in a way favorable to his company.
In the interview, Nam denied that he was responsible for the profit set-up, saying that Kim and Yoo Dong-gyu, the former acting president of the Seongnam Development Corporation, planned the profit distribution scheme together.
The Foreign Ministry voided Nam's passport last week at the request of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
The state prosecution service plans to summon him, possibly as soon as he lands in Korea, as a suspect for questioning over whether he and colleagues were involved in illegal lobbying.
Kim Man-bae, a former journalist, and his company first attracted attention by reaping a profit of 57.7 billion won ($48.3 million) on an investment of 49.95 million won, which was a 1 percent stake in the project.
The company also made 300 billion won in sales of apartments in the development, while its Cheonhwa Dongin affiliates reaped in an additional 400 billion won in profits.
The fact that Kim had interviewed the ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate and Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung in 2014, when he was mayor of Seongnam, aroused suspicion that his company had benefited from political favors in the city’s project.
Kim is suspected of enlisting the help of Yoo to wrangle a profit distribution scheme favorable to Hwacheon Daeyu. Yoo was then the acting president of the Seongnam Development Corporation, which held a 50 percent stake in the mixed private-public development consortium.
The fact that both Kim and Yoo are acquaintainces of Lee have led to calls from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) for the Gyeonggi governor to abandon his presidential run.
Yoo previously worked on Lee’s mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns.
The PPP has also called for an independent counsel investigation into the scandal, arguing that Lee bears responsibility as he was mayor of Seongnam at the time the Daejang-dong project was launched.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]