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Lawmakers embroiled in bribe scandal

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Published : 2014-08-05 20:49
Updated : 2014-08-05 20:49

Three main opposition lawmakers on Tuesday denied allegations that they had taken kickbacks from a vocational school that was trying to attain authorities’ approval to change its name.

Their denials came a day after the prosecution unveiled its plan to verify the bribe charges against the three lawmakers of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy ― Reps. Shin Gye-ryoon, Kim Jae-yun and Shin Hak-yong.

The prosecution said it would summon Shin Gye-ryoon and Kim in the coming days or weeks, adding that Shin Hak-yong could be summoned according to its further investigation.

The allegation relates to a bill proposed by NPAD lawmaker Shin Gye-ryoon to omit the term “vocational” from the Korean name of Seoul Arts College. Rep. Kim Jae-yun later joined the action to activate the motion.

Shin and Kim have been on suspicion of taking 50 million won ($49,000) and 15 million won respectively, in bribes, from the college. Rep. Shin Hak-yong was also reportedly involved in the alleged bribery.

In a statement, Shin Gye-ryoon said that he “has not received kickbacks concerning the school name approval.” Shin, however, said he would respond to the summons after agreeing the date with the prosecution.

Kim also dismissed the charges. The opposition lawmaker said he would decide whether to respond to the summons in consultation with the NPAD floor leaders.

Shin Hak-yong said, “Though my aides were investigated (by the prosecution), (I) have not been connected to the case.”

NPAD lawmakers claimed that the prosecution is seeking to suppress the opposition party in an alleged bid to offset its various faults in its manhunt for the sunken ferry Sewol owner Yoo Byung-eun, who was found dead on June 12.

“Lawmakers are not entitled to endorse administrative procedures for schools. It seems that (the prosecution) is targeting the opposition lawmakers for a shady purpose,” said NPAD spokeswoman Han Jeoung-ae.

Meanwhile, a prosecutor said investigators “have already secured the statement from SAC chairman Kim Min-seong, who has said the school handed over money to some opposition lawmakers.”

The prosecutor added that investigators also confirmed the allegation by checking bank accounts.

Political affairs pundits say that the prosecution has been accelerating its move to turn up the heat upon the misconduct of lawmakers after the July 30 by-elections.

Some critics, however, stressed that the prosecution should not be negligent in continuously tracing and scrutinizing suspects, including civil servants and the operator of the Sewol ferry, who would be held accountable for the April 16 sinking.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)