Tip-offs suggest DP Chair Lee Jae-myung lied during presidential campaign
Prosecutors have received a tip-off alleging that Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Jae-myung lied about not having ties to an official at Seongnam's public developer to avoid negative scrutiny into his role in the scandal-ridden Daejang-dong development during his presidential campaign.
Kim Moon-ki, chief of the Seongnam Development Corporation’s (SDC) project development division when the Daejang-dong development launched in 2015, was found dead in his office in apparent suicide in December while under investigation as a person of interest in the corruption scandal surrounding the project. He is one of two officials from the city-run developer who committed suicide while being probed in the case.
According to prosecution officials who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday on condition of anonymity, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office recently secured a statement from an anonymous SDC employee that Kim was one of several people, including the developer’s former acting president Yoo Dong-kyu and former strategy business division chief Chung Min-yong, who used to report directly to the mayor's office about the Daejang-dong development.
If the statement submitted to prosecutors is true, it would contradict comments Lee made in a Dec. 22 interview where he denied knowing Kim during his 2010-18 term as Seongnam’s mayor.
Knowingly making false statements while running for office is a crime under the Public Official Election Act.
An unnamed construction company official involved in the Daejang-dong development told the JoongAng Ilbo that Kim worked closely with Yoo on the project, and they likely met with the mayor at his office to report on the development’s progress.
Yoo, who was also a former aide to Lee during his successful mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns, was indicted on breach of trust on top of the initial bribery indictment served by prosecutors on Oct. 21 on suspicion that he engineered the profit distribution setup of the Daejang-dong project to favor small asset management company Hwacheon Daeyu and its affiliates.
As part of their probe into Lee’s past denial of ties to Kim, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is also looking into details of the former mayor’s 2015 trip to Australia and New Zealand, where he was accompanied by 10 other people, including Yoo and Kim.
Photos provided by Kim’s family that were released in December, after his death, by Lee Gi-in, a conservative People Power Party (PPP) member of the Seongnam city council, show the two men together in photos.
The photographs added to suspicions that Lee Jae-myung was not being truthful when he told media that he did not know Kim.
Kim also reportedly told his family he went golfing with Lee and Yoo while on the trip.
The investigation team has already confiscated Kim’s mobile phone and raided his home as well as the office of an unidentified high-ranking Gyeonggi official, who was another close aide to Lee when he served as the province governor.
A prosecutor-turned-lawyer who commented on the case on condition of anonymity to the JoongAng Ilbo said, “Most people naturally recall old acquaintances when they see objective reminders of past ties, such as photos,” adding that Lee’s denials in the face of photographic evidence “is the crux of allegations that he lied to avoid being implicated in the Daejang-dong scandal, which was the biggest issue during the presidential election.”
Lee has rejected prosecutors’ summons to appear in person for questioning about his alleged falsehoods, instead submitting written responses to their questions.
In a Tuesday press briefing, the DP’s senior spokesman Ahn Ho-young said Lee did not lie about not knowing Kim to avoid scrutiny, but because Kim was just one of many people he interacted with as the head of the city government.
“[Lee] met Kim as a working-level official who knew the details of the Daejang-dong development project,” Ahn said, adding that “it is difficult for an elected mayor who manages more than 4,000 employees and contacts dozens of officials a day to remember one person.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]