Prosecution to Summon Disgraced Ex-Secretary
By Jung Sung-ki
The prosecution plans to summon a top policy planner for President Roh Moo-hyun, who resigned Monday for apparently lying about his relationship with a 35-year degree falsifier and a former professor of Dongguk University in Seoul.
Upon arrival from Sydney where he attended the annual APEC forum Monday morning, Roh accepted the resignation of Byeon Yang-kyoon, 58, the senior presidential secretary for policy planning.
Byeon was confirmed to have peddled his influence to protect Shin Jeong-ah, who had worked as an art curator.
The two met frequently as alumni of Yale University although Shin is not a graduate of the prestigious American university.
Roh asked Jeon Hae-cheol, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, to accept the resignation so that prosecutors could investigate Byeon.
The President gave the instruction after he received a report that Byeon protected Shin who has been at the center of a recent fake degree scandal.
Justice Minister Chung Soung-jin told Moon Jae-in, chief of staff for Roh, Sunday, that the disgraced secretary might face questions from the prosecution.
The presidential office did not clarify what it meant by the close ties between Byeon and Shin. It was reported that the two exchanged ``love letters'' for about 100 times. But the prosecution refused to confirm the allegation.
The disgraced secretary also lied about his role in the scandal, the presidential office confirmed. Upon receiving the report, President Roh was reported angry, a source said.
Jeon said the prosecution seized compelling evidence of the Byeon-Shin connection after examining Shin's e-mails, phone records and bank accounts.
``The two were keeping in touch while the investigation into the scandal was underway,'' Jeon said.
Byeon also contacted Buddhist monk Jang Yoon, who had called attention to the fake degrees, while accompanying President Roh on a trip to Guatemala in early July, in an apparent attempt to protect Shin. Byeon had repeatedly denied this allegation.
Jang was the first whistle blower on Shin's fake Yale degree when he was a board member of the university founded by Buddhists. The university filed a lawsuit against Shin.
Shin was picked as a director for the 2008 Gwangju Biennale in early July, and the biennale foundation has also filed a suit against her.
She fled to the United States in mid-July, while Byeon allegedly pressed the monk to keep mum.
As the forgery suspicion grew, prosecutors last week raided the house and office of Shin.
Dongkook University President Oh Young-gyo also had lied about Byeon's role in a recent press conference. He said that Byeon had nothing to do with the bogus diploma scandal.
The main opposition Grand National Party has now kicked off its own investigation to get a fuller picture of the scandal.