Parties at odds over bribery scandal
Opposition parties are taking full advantage of the bribery case involving Choi See-joong, former top communication regulator and a close aide of President Lee Myung-bak, to gain the upper hand in the presidential race slated for Dec. 19.
Prosecutors on Wednesday issued a summons against the former Korea Communications Commission (KCC) Chairman who allegedly took bribes worth over 500 million won ($438,500) from a real estate development company from 2007 to 2008 in return for influence-peddling in a construction project.
Choi flatly denied the accusation saying he accepted the money not in favor of the company but to cover the cost of conducting opinion polls during Lee’s election campaign in 2007. Choi, also known as Lee’s mentor, played a key role in Lee’s victory for the presidential bid.
“The prosecutors must open an overall investigation into the funds raised (by the Lee Myung-bak camp) in 2007,” said Moon Sung-keun, acting leader of the main opposition Democratic United Party.
The minor Unified Progressive Party (UPP) also called for an extensive investigation into Lee and his close confidants.
“President Lee, his mentor Choi and his brother Lee Sang-deuk are on the verge of a collapse. We call for swift action against illegal political funds involving them,” said the UPP in a statement.
Lee Sang-deuk, President Lee’s elder brother and a six-term lawmaker, is also suspected of receiving illegal funds from corporations.
Experts say the snowballing scandal of the bribery is starting to emerge as one of the key election issues as parties gear up negative campaigns in the lead up to the presidential race at the end of the year. Some say the scandal could worsen public sentiment on the incumbent administration which already hit rock bottom following the illegal surveillance case of civilians.
While the opposition parties carry out full-fledged attacks on the current administration, the ruling Saenuri Party is trying its best to prevent the case from spilling over.
Concerning the scandal, Rep. Park Geun-hye, interim leader of the ruling party and the conservative’s strongest presidential candidate said “no one is an exception” and that “everyone should be judged according to the law.”
Park who successfully led the troubled ruling party to a majority victory in the latest general election has lately been stepping up efforts to distance herself from the Lee administration.
Park, also referred to as the “election queen,” earlier called on a thorough prosecutor’s probe into Cheong Wa Dae’s illegal surveillance case and claimed she was also a victim.