Fresh corruption scandal hits Lee
By Kang Hyun-kyung
A fresh corruption scandal involving two of Lee Myung-bak’s key aides was poised to deal a serious blow to the lame duck President during his 10 months left in office.
The revelation came amid Lee’s falling approval ratings after a series of corruption scandals involving his aides and relatives, including his brother, tarnished the image of his administration.
Choi See-joong, former chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), and Park Young-joon, former deputy prime minister (2009-2010), allegedly received an astronomical amount of money from a businessman in return for issuing a permit to develop a posh southern Seoul area.
According to the prosecution, the businessman identified only by his surname Lee stated that he had given a total of 6.1 billion won of cash to Choi and Park from 2004 to 2008 through a broker.
In an interview, Choi, 75, admitted he had received money from the businessman through a broker, until recently since 2004.
The former KCC chairman, who is known as President Lee’s mentor, said he received money during the 2007 presidential campaign season and used part of the money to finance public opinion surveys.
His admission apparently embarrassed President Lee as he had said on several occasions earlier that he had not received a dime from businesspeople to finance his presidential campaign in an effort to stress his administration’s ethical soundness.
Given his previous remarks, his mentor’s surprising confession is likely to deal a serious blow to Lee regarding his ethics.
It would also be inevitable for the prosecution to widen the probe into Lee’s campaign funding.
Choi is a close friend of President Lee’s brother Rep. Lee Sang-deuk.
The former KCC leader reportedly exerted considerable influence behind key decision-making in government while in office, exploiting his ties with the President and his brother.
On Monday, the government issued a travel ban on him.
Park is another Lee aide and also served as former vice knowledge and finance minister. He is close to Rep. Lee as he previously had served as the senior lawmaker’s legislative aide.
While in office, he worked closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade when he headed the knowledge ministry’s team for energy and resources diplomacy.
Park was behind key resources and overseas investment deals signed with the foreign governments, including the deal to build 200,000 houses in Ghana.
Before the allegedly money-for-favor scandal, he was under fire as the outcomes of resources diplomacy sought under the Lee government turned out to be either exaggerated or a failure.
Park ran unsuccessfully in the April 11 National Assembly elections in the conservatives’ home turf of Daegu.
Cheong Wa Dae has not made any official comment on the scandal.
An official said the presidential office would wait and see the results of the investigation into the fresh corruption case.