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[Newsmaker] Plot thickens in contract killing

Allegations are piling up against Seoul City Councilor Kim Hyung-sik as the police delve deeper into the circumstances surrounding the alleged contract killing of a wealthy businessman.

The victim, a 67-year-old man identified by the surname Song, was murdered by a 44-year-old associate of Kim in March. The suspect, identified by the surname Paeng, killed Song at the victim’s building in western Seoul in the early hours of March 3. Paeng then fled to China but was extradited to Korea on May 24.

The police suspect that Song had been blackmailing Kim by threatening to expose illegal dealings between them if the city councilor did not follow through on his promises. 
Seoul City Councilor Kim Hyung-sik
Seoul City Councilor Kim Hyung-sik

According to reports, Kim is said to have promised to change the designation of a plot of land belonging to Song from residential to commercial, using his position on Seoul Metropolitan Council’s urban planning committee. The change would have resulted in a three- to fourfold increase in the land’s value.

The authorities had initially suspected that Kim ordered the killing under pressure to repay a large debt to Song, based on a promissory note for 520 million won ($514,000) signed by Kim that was found in the victim’s office.

Kim, who was arrested on June 26 on charges of ordering Song’s murder, denies the allegations, saying he had no reason to want Song killed. 
Murder suspect Paeng (center) is escorted by police officers on May 22. (Yonhap)
Murder suspect Paeng (center) is escorted by police officers on May 22. (Yonhap)

According to reports, Kim described his relationship with Song as that of a politician and a financial sponsor. Kim is also said to have claimed that they had a close relationship until Song’s death.

As for Paeng, he claims that he carried out the murder in exchange for not having to repay the 80 million won he owed the city councilor. Paeng also told police that Kim ordered him to commit suicide before being arrested.

After being arrested himself, Kim gave Paeng a note instructing him to exercise his right to remain silent.

The developments seem to be putting further strain on the ruling-opposition relations.

The ruling Saenuri Party pounced on the developments by launching an attack against the NPAD.

“Nominating such a person for a public post and (aiding) his election as a Seoul city councilor proves the moral laxity of the NPAD,” Saenuri Party floor spokesman Rep. Lee Jang-woo said. Lee also attacked the NPAD’s vetting system, and called for a thorough investigation into allegations that Song’s money was given to an influential politician and civil servants in related posts.

Accusing the NPAD of attempting to avoid taking responsibility for the developments, Lee said that the main opposition party was making a mockery of the people and called for an apology.

By Choi He-suk (