Former President Denies Bribe-Taking; Kwon Yang-sook Will Be Summoned Again
Former President Roh Moo-hyun enters the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in southern Seoul, Thursday, to be questioned over his alleged involvement in a $6 million bribery case. Before leaving his home in Bongha, South Gyeongsang Province, earlier in the day, Roh apologized, saying he felt “ashamed and sorry” for disappointing his fellow citizens. / Korea Times
By Park Si-soo
Former President Roh Moo-hyun denied bribery allegations leveled against him during a marathon questioning session at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office in Seoul, which continued overnight after starting at 1:45 p.m. Thursday.
``He denied the allegations,'' senior prosecutor Hong Man-pyo told a press briefing. ``He didn't exercise his right to silence. In many cases, he briefly answered `yes,' `no,' or `I have no idea.' He sometimes gave answers in narrative manner.''
``We will decide whether to indict Roh after reviewing the results of the interrogation,'' Hong said.
Weary-looking Roh left the office at 2:10 a.m., Friday, saying ``I did my best.'' He returned home at Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province.
The questioning centered on the allegation that during his 2003-2008 term the former head of state received millions of dollars in bribes from Park Yeon-cha, CEO of domestic shoe manufacturer Taekwang and his long-time financial supporter.
The prosecution planned to cross-question the two as Roh's responses contradicted those of the business tycoon, but failed due to the ex-President's opposition, Hong said.
The prosecutor added, ``Roh's wife, Kwon Yang-sook, will be summoned soon. We are now working to decide on the date,'' though he did not elaborate on the reason for her summons.
The prosecution believes the 62-year-old ex-head of state received at least $6 million in bribes from Park during his five-year presidency that ended February last year. He is also accused of being the beneficiary of some 1.25 billion won ($900,000) in presidential funds embezzled by former presidential secretary Chung Sang-moon, who has already been arrested.
So far, Roh has admitted his wife took $1 million from Park, saying she borrowed it to repay private debts, and denying all bribe-taking allegations.
Despite Roh's testimony, the prosecution is expected to indict him on charges of ``comprehensive'' bribery since it claims to have already secured sufficient evidence through questioning Kwon, his son and aides, all of whom are allegedly involved in the high-profile graft scandal. However, it's still unclear whether an arrest warrant will be sought for him.
Roh arrived at the office at 1:19 p.m., about five hours after he left his home in Bongha Village near Busan at 8:00 a.m.
Pausing briefly in front of his home for photographers before getting on a limousine bus provided by Chung Wa Dae for the 400-kilometer trip to Seoul, he made a deep bow and apologized to the people. ``I am deeply ashamed before my fellow citizens. I am sorry to have disappointed you. I will return safely after the questioning,'' Roh said.
All of his moves were broadcast, as hundreds of cameras and reporters chased him during the trip.
Roh thus became the country's third former president summoned by the prosecution following Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, who were both convicted in 1995 of mutiny and multi-billion won bribery charges following a Dec. 12, 1979 military coup. They were sentenced to death but pardoned in 1997 by then President Kim Young-sam.
After arriving at the prosecution's office, Roh dodged reporters' questions and immediately entered the building, barely saying a word to the media. Wearing a grim face he only said, ``Let me talk about it later.''
He went to the seventh floor to meet the head of the investigation team, and then headed to a VIP interrogation room, 1120.
Prosecution spokesman Cho Eun-suk said, ``Before starting the questioning, the chief prosecutor in charge of the case asked the former President to cooperate, and Roh responded that he would.''
Prosecutors had prepared around 300 questions centered on the suspicious $6 million for the interrogation.
At a press briefing held only two hours after his arrival, prosecutor Hong said, ``Roh is responding well and making his argument. The investigation is going smoothly.''
He quoted Roh as saying that: ``I understand the prosecution's obligation and sense of justice. But please let us respect each other's position during the investigation.''
As a way to save time in the face-to-face questioning, the prosecution sent key questions to Roh last week, but only ended up receiving answers defending his family and himself.
As the bus rolled into the grounds of the prosecutors' office, Roh's supporters began throwing yellow flower petals at the vehicle wishing for a victorious return of their hero. Yellow is the color of Roh, which he used during the presidential campaign in 2002.
However, some members of conservative groups threw eggs and a shoe at the bus, calling for the prosecution to conduct a thorough investigation and arrest the former President.