Rep. Park Jin
By Park Si-soo
Rep. Park Jin of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) was summoned to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office Friday to be questioned over allegations that he took bribes from Park Yeon-cha, CEO of Taekwang Industries and a major backer of former President Roh Moo-hyun.
Rep. Park turned himself in to the office around 9:50 a.m. to face questions on whether he received illegal political funds from the scandal-ridden CEO, who was arrested last December on charges of tax evasion and bribery, prosecutors said.
Park reportedly received tens of thousands of dollars from the tycoon through an acquaintance.
``We were tipped off that he had received bribes from the businessman,'' Hong Man-pyo, a chief prosecutor said. ``If deemed necessary, we will jointly-question the two to confirm the receipt of the money.''
However, the senior lawmaker denied the allegation. ``The report is groundless. It's defamation,'' he said in a statement.
The three-term lawmaker first became involved in politics in 1993 as a translator for then-President Kim Young-sam. The 53-year-old is well known for his advocacy of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and his close political relationship with President Lee. He now serves as chairman of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee.
The prosecution is considering seeking an arrest warrant, Hong said.
Prosecutors plan to summon one or two more incumbent lawmakers, including Rep. Seo Gap-won, a deputy floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), to find out if he received money from the Taekwang CEO.
Rep. Lee Kwang-jae of the DP was taken into custody Thursday night on charges of pocketing about 180 million won ($140,000) from Park between 2004 and 2008.
Prosecution officials said some other ruling and opposition lawmakers are also under investigation for taking bribes from Park, who is known to have been a financial supporter of former President Roh and key politicians.