Warrant asked for KwonThe Supreme Public Prosecutors Office yesterday requested a detention warrant for the Millennium Democratic Party lawmaker Kwon Roh-kap, who is charged with receiving 20 billion won ($17 million) from the Hyundai Group, which asked him for favors in its North Korean business projects.
“Mr. Kwon right before the legislative election in April 2000 met with the late Hyundai Asan Chairman Chung Mong-hun in a Seoul hotel and asked him for money,” according to the statement presented to the court in support of the warrant request. “Upon Mr. Kwon’s request, Mr. Chung asked Mr. Kwon to help Hyundai receive a permit to build a casino at the Mount Geumgang resort and to support the group when it was in difficulties.”
Hyundai then packed 20 billion won in cash ― 2 million 10,000-won bills weighing two tons ― into 50 boxes. Hyundai secretly delivered the boxes in four lots to Kim Yeong-wan in 2000. Mr. Kim is a fugitive arms dealer who is said to have laundered an additional 15 billion won from Hyundai allegedly sent to Park Jie-won, the chief of staff of former President Kim Dae-jung, before the June 2000 inter-Korean summit. He is also suspected of laundering the 20 billion won for Mr. Kwon.
The prosecution said Mr. Kwon and Mr. Kim have had a close relationship since 1991. In 2000 they lived less than a mile apart. According to the prosecution and to aides of Mr. Kim, he stashed the boxes of Hyundai cash in his home’s basement store room and frequently visited Mr. Kwon to give him money before the election.
A prosecutor said yesterday that it is beyond doubt that Mr. Kwon received the money from Mr. Kim. “We confirmed that Mr. Kwon called Mr. Chung and said, ‘I received it without any problems.’ ”
Mr. Kwon’s aides, however, yesterday strongly disputed the charge. “Mr. Kim told Mr. Kwon that he would give him Hyundai’s 10 billion won, but Mr. Kwon refused the offer,” an aide of Mr. Kwon said. “Mr. Kwon just borrowed 1 billion won from Mr. Kim.” He also said that if Mr. Kim had taken the 20 billion won from Hyundai, he would have used it for himself.
Prosecution sources said Mr. Kim had said, while being questioned about the 20 billion won, that he prepared another 11 billion won in political funds that did not come from Hyundai, and used the sum for the 2000 election. The prosecution will investigate how Mr. Kwon had come by the 11 billion won, the sources said.
Mr. Kwon may be charged not only with violation of the law on political funds, but also with bribery if it turns out that he gave aid to the Hyundai Group in exchange for the money he received, political analysts said.
They said Hyundai Group’s major subsidiaries, such as Hyundai Engineering and Construction, were in great financial difficulties around the election period, and Hyundai would not have given the money to Mr. Kwon without receiving something for it.
They also noted that at about the same time the group itself was in difficulty, having lost the confidence of the market during the power struggle between Chung Mong-hun and Chung Mong-koo, two sons of the Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung, to control the group.
The analysts said Hyundai received financial support from the Kim Dae-jung government right after the election.
The national Korea Development Bank, for example, bought 2.6 trillion won worth of bonds from Hyundai Electronics, now called Hynix, and extended the company’s loan repayment period.
“During the Kim Dae-jung administration, no other business group was so close to power as Hyundai,” said a company manager, who asked for anonymity.
The prosecution has yet to find out how Mr. Kwon used the money he allegedly received. It has been persistently suggested that he distributed some of it to his party’s “new mainstream,” members considered to be young and progressive, to help them win election.
by Kang Joo-an, Lee Chul-jae
More in Politics
Seoul City Hall denies knowing about harassment
Japan's latest Dokdo claim rekindles Korean ire
Ruling party withdraws pick for CIO nomination committee
Secretary says mayor wouldn't stop harassing her
Unification Ministry to release details of how nominee financed son's tuition