A group of shipowners has sponsored overseas trips for a dozen lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties, sparking speculation about illicit lobbying.
The Korea Shipowners’ Association, which is now under investigation over the sunken ferry Sewol, is accused of attempting to influence politicians by paying for five overseas trips.
The lawmakers, however, denied any wrongdoing, and said they did not do any political favors for the KSA, adding that their trips were not recreational.
In March, Saenuri Party Rep. Park Sang-eun, along with five other Saenuri party officials, traveled to the United Arab Emirates and took a city tour of Dubai.
With funding from the KSA, lawmakers took a trip to Indonesia and Singapore in 2012, Japan in 2011 and 2010, and China and Hong Kong in 2009.
The association financed the trips and accompanied the lawmakers.
The lawmakers said Wednesday that the shipowners’ group only paid for part of the travel costs to make up for the shortage in funds needed for the trips.
Ruling party Rep. Park Sang-eun, who led each of the trips for the lawmakers, denied lobbying allegations in an interview with a local daily.
“The accusations that the trips were recreational in nature are unfair. We had a difficult time as we had to travel sometimes by cargo ship,” he said.
A spokesman for Rep. Kim Moo-sung said the lawmaker was not aware that the KSA paid for the trips.
By Suh Ye-seul (firstname.lastname@example.org)