The corruption scandal involving Rep. Yoo Seung-woo of the Saenuri Party shows how hard it is to end the dirty practice of candidates buying nominations from major political parties.
The case has yet to be investigated by the prosecution and for now Yoo denies the accusation that he took bribes, but the allegations are so concrete and detailed that it appears very likely to have been a dirty deal.
The case was revealed by the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, which, acting on a tip-off, alleged that Yoo’s wife received 200 million won from a woman who wanted to run for the mayor’s office in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province.
Yoo, elected from Icheon, was the head of the panel responsible for nominating Saenuri Party candidates for local elections not only in his electoral district but also for the entire Gyeonggi Province.
Rep. Park Beom-kye of the NPAD, who broke the allegations, said that the woman failed to get the Saenuri nomination and demanded that Yoo’s wife return the money. The lawmaker’s wife gave it back in 50,000-won bills, Park claimed.
The opposition lawmaker said that the whistle-blower submitted related voice and video records to the local election watchdog. Yoo denied the allegations, saying he would stake his political career on it. He filed a defamation suit against Park.
The Saenuri Party, fearful of the alleged corruption case’s negative impact on the elections, moved fast, expelling the woman who allegedly gave money to Yoo’s wife. It also asked Yoo to leave the party, saying it is too early to hand down a heavier punishment because the case is pending investigation and the alleged bribery involved his wife.
The full truth will come soon, for which the prosecution should look into the case as quickly as possible.
In any regard, the Icheon scandal should warn the National Election Commission, its local offices and the prosecution of the possibility that there could be more such cases.
By May 16, the deadline for candidate registration for the June 4 polls, authorities booked 1,197 people on charges of illegal electioneering and more than 27 percent of them were accused of bribery and illegal campaign financing.
If the past is a guide, there could be more who bought or attempted to buy nominations by bribing lawmakers or senior party officials. If these crooks are elected, they will go to any lengths to make up for their “investment.”