Card usage by DP's Lee during time as mayor draws scrutiny
Expenses billed by Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung to the Seongnam city government during his time as mayor drew scrutiny Wednesday, with an opposition lawmaker highlighting what he called irregularities in Lee's purchases.
Park Soo-young, a lawmaker from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), said his office examined 2,321 cases of official expenditure filed by Lee between January 2014 and March 2018 that had been cleared by the Seongnam city accounting department.
Lee’s city-issued corporate card was used to pay for nine lunches and nine dinners on March 26, 2015, alone, with the cost of the appointments on that day ranging between 55,000 won and 478,000 won ($46-400).
The total cost of Lee’s meals that day came to around 3.9 million won.
According to the city’s accounting records, the majority of Lee’s meals on that day took place at restaurants in the Sampyeong-dong and Seohyeon-dong neighborhoods in Bundang District, an upscale area of Seongnam, Gyeonggi.
March 26 was not the only instance where the mayor shelled out for several meals in a single day.
On Jan. 6, 2014, Lee billed the city for five lunch appointments, including two separate 450,000-won meals with representatives of different private arts foundations.
According to Park, Lee habitually billed the city for multiple lunches and dinners during his tenure as mayor, with the candidate paying for more than one lunch and dinner appointment 78 days in total.
However, the PPP lawmaker also noted that Lee used the city’s dime to pay for purchases that were ostensibly for use in the city hall, but were bought elsewhere — notably, near Lee’s residence.
While records show that 230 purchases filed as part of Lee’s official expenses were categorized as “snacks and refreshments for visitors in the reception room” at Seongnam City Hall, 200 of these purchases were made not in Yeosu-dong, the neighborhood where the city hall is located, but in Jeongja-dong, Yatap-dong and Seohyeon-dong.
Ninety purchases filed separately from such refreshments, which came to a total cost of 28 million won, were made at one shop in Sunae-dong, the neighborhood where Lee’s residence is located. The purchases took place up to five times a month, costing between 200,000 won and 400,000 won monthly.
According a local government official queried by the JoongAng Ilbo on these purchases, refreshments and snacks bought for consumption at the city hall are usually bought at shops inside the building, with small amounts of pastries and fruit purchased on occasion.
According to Seongnam city officials, Lee’s official expenses gave rise to rumors that employees working in his office were swiping with more corporate cards than normally issued by the city government.
“It is common for the mayor to use two to three corporate cards, with one going to the mayor himself, one to his chief of staff, and another to a secretary,” said one official who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity. “But when Lee was the mayor, there were rumors that up to seven cards were in use at the same time.”
Park has urged an investigation into Lee’s expenses and billing practices from the time he was Seongnam’s mayor, saying, “There needs to be a thorough investigation into whether any purchases Lee billed to the city as part of his official expenses were actually for private use.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]