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GNP vote-buying scandal reaches presidential aide

Prosecutors have secured statements that a senior presidential aide was involved in vote buying by the Grand National Party in 2008, when he had a major role in Rep. Park Hee-tae’s campaign for the party leadership.

According to Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, investigators have secured statements that An Byung-yong, head of a GNP district chapter, was instructed by Kim Hyo-jae, senior presidential secretary for President Lee Myung-bak, to hand 20 million won ($17,700) to five members of district councils with instructions to bribe 30 GNP officials.

Kim is denying any connection to the case. The investigators are reported to have gained the testimony from a councilor from the northern Seoul district of Eunpyeong, identified by the surname Kim. According to Kim’s testimony, an obtained the envelope containing the 20 million won from Kim Hyo-jae’s office.

The prosecutors also suspect Kim Hyo-jae of being the man who called Rep. Koh Seung-duk when the latter returned a bribe.

The scandal blew up when Koh claimed he was given an envelope containing 3 million won and Rep. Park Hee-tae’s business card days before the 2008 party leadership election.

Park succeeded in winning the party chairmanship and dropped his party affiliation before becoming the National Assembly speaker in 2010.

According to Koh, he returned the money to Park’s former secretary Koh Myung-jin. Koh Myung-jin is also suspected of delivering the money to Rep. Koh, but denies doing so.
Kim Hyo-jae
Kim Hyo-jae

Kim Hyo-jae strongly denies any involvement in the alleged vote-buying scheme.

“My position now is the same as before. I know nothing about distributing envelopes with money at the party convention nor did I give instructions,” Kim told a local news agency.

Asked whether he has been summoned by the prosecutors, Kim said that he had not been informed of a summons and that as the allegations are false the prosecutors “will not have their way.”

“It appears that the prosecutors habitually let slip information (to the media). I do not know the Eunpyeong-gu councilor Kim who is said to have testified to the prosecutors.”

Prosecution sources said prosecutors are planning to summon the presidential aide soon to question him over suspicions that he played a major role in the bribery scheme.

Prosecutors also summoned two key aides to Park ― Lee Bong-gun, a top state affairs secretary, and former secretary Lee Myeong-jin ― on Monday afternoon. The two aides played key roles during Park’s 2008 campaign for the chairmanship.

Meanwhile, prosecutors also called in Moon Byung-wook, the chairman of tourism-focused corporation Ramid Group, to question him over suspicions of illegally providing millions of won to Park’s campaign team prior to the 2008 party election.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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