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Ex-vice commerce minister indicted for nuke reactor corruption

A former vice commerce minister has been indicted on charges of accepting bribes in return for favoring a local builder in its bid to win a nuclear reactor contract, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Park Young-june allegedly received 50 million won (US$46,099) in March 2010 from a broker in exchange for peddling his influence for Hankook Jungsoo Industries Co., a local water treatment firm, in its bid to take part in the government's project to build nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirate (UAE).

South Korea signed a contract with the UAE in 2009 to build four nuclear reactors, with construction currently under way.

At that time, Park, known as one of the closest confidants to then President Lee Myung-bak, served as the vice minister of the Prime Minister's Office. He then took the post of the vice commerce minister under the Lee government.

Park is also suspected of accepting a total of 7 million won from Kim Jong-shin, then chief of Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), the country's state-run nuclear power plants operator, between October 2010 and April 2011.

Kim allegedly asked for Park's consideration for his firm in devising the government's policy measures on nuclear reactor industries, the prosecutors from the Busan District Prosecutors' Office said.

Park was one of 97 people so far indicted on charges related to the country's massive corruption and cheating scandal in the supply of parts to South Korea's major nuclear power plants.

Since late last year, six nuclear reactors have been suspended -- including three newly built reactors -- after they were found to have been supplied with substandard control cables under falsified warranties from local supplier JS Cable, among others.

In the wake of the revelation, the prosecution in May launched a special team to look into the case, and held a briefing session on Tuesday.

"We will continue our investigation into the scandal ... We will continue to strive to send the message that those who committed wrongdoings will be brought to justice in the end," said Kim Ki-dong, chief of the branch office.

South Korea operates 23 reactors, supplying about 30 percent of its total electricity consumption. (Yonhap News)

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