Kwangdong exec attempts suicide amid probe

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Kwangdong exec attempts suicide amid probe

The top executive of a traditional Korean medicine clinic ensnared in a bribery investigation attempted to commit suicide on Tuesday.

Lee Gang-nam, the CEO of Kwangdong Hospital of Traditional Korean Medicine, was questioned by prosecutors on Tuesday afternoon about allegations that he received bribes from an advertising company.

Prosecutors believe that executives at Kwangdong Pharmaceutical, the hospital’s owner, unfairly awarded deals to an advertising company between 2013 and 2016 for 1 billion won ($885,000) in bribes. Lee, who was an executive at the company during those years, is suspected of being involved in the deals.

“We questioned him for about two hours,” the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said. “At around 5:30 p.m. he said he would leave his office to get dinner.”

Instead, prosecutors received a text message from Lee’s lawyers at around 7 p.m. in which Lee reportedly said, “I want to die.” Prosecutors then asked for the police’s help in locating Lee’s whereabouts. They tracked his phone to a 12-floor building about 400 meters (1,300 feet) from the prosecutors’ office. He was on the rooftop and ready to jump off.

“When we found him, he was conscious,” hospital staff said. Although Lee leapt from the roof of the building, his body hit “an obstacle” on the way down and that “lessened the shock on his body when it hit the ground,” staff said. “His life is not in danger.”

Prosecutors raided the office of Kwangdong Pharmaceutical on Tuesday, seizing hard drives and other records to identify other possible suspects in the case. They have been investigating the company since 2016, when they stumbled on evidence of possible bribery while investigating Lotte Group’s Daehong Communications as part of a separate probe into alleged corruption at Lotte.

The investigations were put on hold after the corruption scandal that brought down President Park Geun-hye later that year. Prosecutors recently resumed the investigations.

BY JEONG JIN-WOO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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