Bill to name new counsel goes to Assembly today

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Bill to name new counsel goes to Assembly today

The opposition Grand National Party yesterday finished work on a new proposal for an enhanced, more autonomous independent counsel to pursue the cash-for-summit scandal and its offspring. The bill would require an investigation into the 15 billion won ($12.5 million) that a confidant of former president Kim Dae-jung allegedly received from the Hyundai Group and would allow the counsel to pursue other limited aspects of the larger scandal.
In rejecting a longer investigation by the existing independent counsel on Monday, President Roh Moo-hyun left open the possibility of a new counsel to investigate those charges against Park Jie-won, but said the matter was separate from the focus of the counsel’s investigation of allegations that North Korea was bribed by the Kim Blue House to stage the 2000 inter-Korean summit.
“The gist of the new bill is to give the chief counsel authority to decide on extensions himself to prevent the president rejecting further investigations for political reasons,” Representative Lee Hae-koo of the Grand National Party told the press.
The second bill would give a new counsel 120 days to pursue its investigation, with renewals of 30 and 20 days at the counsel’s discretion. The bill will be presented to the National Assembly today, Grand National Party officials said. The party has a majority in the Assembly, and a party-line vote would ensure its passage.
The bill calls for a probe into the disposition of 270 billion won, part of an allegedly irregular loan that the Korea Development Bank made to a Hyundai Group affiliate. The equivalent of $200 million from that loan has been accounted for by the present counsel, which says it was wired to North Korean bank accounts. The bill also instructs a new counsel to check further into the alleged 15-billion-won separate payment by Hyundai to Mr. Park and to pursue other allegations of bribery in the period before the 2000 summit. Other questions the bill directs a new counsel to investigate concern allegations that a Hyundai official, Lee Ik-chi, raised funds from other Hyundai affiliates. Finally, the bill seeks an investigation of the disposition of $150 million received by Hyundai for the sale of an electronics plant in Great Britain.
The Millennium Democratic Party of President Roh yesterday called the bill a “political offensive aimed at next year’s National Assembly elections.”
Party leaders seemed to hold out some hope that the new head of the opposition party will take a more accommodating stance on the matter. An opposition party election was held yesterday; the results will be announced tomorrow.

by Nam Jeong-ho

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