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Foreign minister parries attack over stock manipulation scandal

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan defended against an attack on him Friday, saying he would not have requested an audit into a stock manipulation scandal involving members of his ministry had he tried to cover it up.

Independent lawmaker Jeong Tae-keun attacked the minister and the ministry’s vice ministers for allegedly hiding and delaying the truth behind the scandal related to a diamond mining project in Cameroon.

The Board of Audit and Inspection on Thursday recommended the dismissal of Kim Eun-seok, the ministry’s ambassador for energy and resources, for playing a role in driving up the stock prices of CNK International, a mineral development company involved in mining diamonds in Cameroon.

The BAI accused ambassador Kim of deliberately over-estimating the volume of diamond reserves in a Cameroon mine in a press release his ministry issued in December 2010, which drove up CNK’s stocks.

It also referred the diplomat to the prosecution for criminal investigation.

“Would a person trying to cover up (the issue) ask the Board of Audit and Inspection for an audit?” the minister told Yonhap News Agency at the ministry’s headquarters in Seoul.

He also said he accepts the results of the audit and offered to “take responsibility for anything I must be held accountable for.”

However, he declined to comment on whether he will step down over the issue.

In an e-mail sent to all ministry staff on Saturday, the minister wrote he felt “indescribable distress and infinite responsibility,” and pledged to punish those responsible under a “principle of zero-tolerance.” (Yonhap News)
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