Another aide to President faces summons for bribery
By Na Jeong-ju
Former Knowledge Economy Vice Minister Park Young-june is facing a summons concerning bribery allegations in a far-reaching corruption scandal that has shaken the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Park, a key presidential aide, is suspected of having taken money from Picity, a real estate developer which also allegedly bribed former Korea Communications Commission Chairman Choi See-joong. Choi was questioned for 14 hours at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul on Wednesday over the claims and is now facing arrest.
The prosecution said it will also issue a summons for Park as early as today.
Park worked as a political advisor to then Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon when the city government permitted Picity to construct more office buildings inside a redevelopment zone in southern Seoul. Opposition lawmakers have claimed that, given high rental fees for offices in southern Seoul, the permission was preferential treatment for Picity.
Park Won-soon, who succeeded Oh as Seoul mayor, revealed Wednesday that political aides to Oh might have been behind the decision, indicating a possible role played by the former vice minister.
“An internal audit is now underway to see how the decision was made,” Park said.
Former Picity Chairman Lee Jeong-bae told investigators that he bribed a number of “powerful people” to obtain a license to build a complex of office buildings and logistics facilities there. The project had long been stalled due to its negative impact on traffic and air quality, but Seoul City approved the project in May 2006 when President Lee was mayor. Lee served as Seoul mayor from July 2002 to June 2006.
Picity is suspected of having created a slush fund amounting to 34 billion won to lobby for the construction project. The businessman reportedly gave some 1.1 billion won to presidential aides Choi and Park through a broker. The prosecution hasn’t ruled out the possibility that more presidential aides might have taken money from Picity, saying it is now tracing money transfers made by the firm between 2007 and 2010.
As he left the prosecution office following questioning, the 75-year-old Choi apologized to President Lee and the public for “causing concern.”
“The President has a lot of tasks to do at Cheong Wa Dae. I am deeply ashamed to have placed an additional burden on him,” he said.
Choi admitted Monday that he received money from Picity but claimed it was not in return for influence peddling and that he spent it on President Lee’s campaign in 2007. However, the prosecution revealed that Choi, after receiving a complaint from the Picity chairman in 2010, called Financial Supervisory Service Governor Kwon Hyouk-se to ask him to “take care of” the developer.