Cor­rup­tion al­leged against S. Korea pres­i­dent aides


South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun- hye f aced al­le­ga­tions Wed­nes­day that mem­bers of her ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ceived bribes from a busi­ness­man found dead in an ap­par­ent sui­cide last week.

Park quickly moved to dis­tance her­self from the po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing scan­dal and backed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion launched by pros­e­cu­tors.

A pros­e­cu­tion of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of of­fice rules, said a team has been formed to look into ac­cu­sa­tions that Prime Min­is­ter Lee Wan- koo, pres­i­den­tial Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee and other po­lit­i­cal fig­ures re­ceived bribes from Sung Wan-jong, whose body was found with a note that listed the names of eight peo­ple and al­leged bribery amounts.

“We should see this as an op­por­tu­nity to re­veal the prob­lems that have marred our pol­i­tics from the past to the present for the pur­pose of re­form,” Park said in a meet­ing of Cabi­net min­is­ters. She called for a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion, vow­ing not to for­give any­one guilty of cor­rup­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Lee did not at­tend the meet­ing, which was held to dis­cuss poli­cies re­lated to public safety ahead of the first an­niver­sary of a ferry dis­as­ter on Thurs­day.

Hours be­fore he was found dead in Seoul last Thurs­day, Sung said in a tele­phone in­ter­view with the Kyunghyang Shin­mun news- pa­per that he gave 30 mil­lion won ( US$ 27,390) to Prime Min­is­ter Lee in 2013, when Lee was a can­di­date for Park’s po­lit­i­cal party in a by-elec­tion.

Sung told the news­pa­per he also gave rul­ing party law­maker Hong Moon Jong about 200 mil­lion won (US$182,600) in 2012 with the un­der­stand­ing that it would be used for Park’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign. Other peo­ple Sung said he bribed in­cluded Lee Byung-kee and Park’s for­mer chief of staff, Kim Ki­choon.

Those named by Sung in the in­ter­view and the note have de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, with Prime Min­is­ter Lee an­grily declar­ing in the Na­tional As­sem­bly on Tues­day that he would “give up his life” if in­ves­ti­ga­tors find ev­i­dence that he re­ceived bribes from Sung.

Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers have called for Lee and Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee to step down from their posts ahead of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by pros­e­cu­tors.

The scan­dal is an­other set­back for Park, who has seen her pop­u­lar­ity drop amid al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and a lack of trans­parency in per­son­nel de­ci­sions and state af­fairs.


In this April 9 photo, South Korean po­lice of­fi­cers carry the body of Sung Wan-jong in Seoul, South Korea. South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye faced charges on Wed­nes­day, April 15 that mem­bers of her ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ceived bribes from the busi­ness­man found dead in an ap­par­ent sui­cide last week.

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