A ruling party lawmaker appeared before prosecutors Wednesday to face questioning over allegations that he received kickbacks from a railroad supplier in exchange for business favors.
The prosecution believes that Rep. Song Kwang-ho of the Saenuri Party accepted bribes worth 55 million won ($54,000) from the railway parts supplier AVT to help the company win contracts with the state-run Korea Rail Network Authority.
The four-term lawmaker was the chairman of the parliamentary committee on land, infrastructure and transport from 2010 to 2012. The committee oversees the railway management agency.
Song entered the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office early in the morning as a criminal suspect. The prosecution says it has secured evidence and testimonies to prove that Song abused his power to award the supplier with contracts.
|Song Kwang-ho. (Yonhap)|
Song is one of several incumbent lawmakers currently under investigations by the prosecution for graft allegations.
The prosecution requested the court to issue arrest warrants for five more lawmakers from both the ruling and the opposition parties late Monday.
Reps. Shin Geh-ryeun, Shin Hak-yong and Kim Jae-yun, all from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, are suspected of taking bribes from a local art school in return for pushing a law that allowed the school to call itself a “training school” and eliminate the term “vocational” from its name.
Two Saenuri lawmakers are also involved in separate bribery cases.
Rep. Cho Hyun-ryong is suspected of taking bribes worth hundreds of millions of won from Sampyo Engineering and Construction in return for helping the firm win contracts since August 2008.
Rep. Park Sang-eun allegedly received illegal political funds from candidates nominated to run in the June 4 general elections.
The prosecution’s move to detain the five lawmakers came as their immunity from arrest has been lifted for only two days. The National Assembly will start an extraordinary session Friday at the request of the main opposition party.
Under law, prosecutors cannot detain or arrest a lawmaker for questioning when the National Assembly is in session. To arrest a lawmaker during a session, the prosecution must obtain parliamentary approval.
The court said it would review the validity of the warrants requested by the prosecution for the five lawmakers Thursday, a day before the parliament holds a successive session.
Observers say the court is unlikely to issue the warrants, as the lawmakers might make excuses not to appear for a court hearing.
But it remains unclear whether the prosecution would try to force the lawmakers to appear for a court hearing or ask the court to review the validity of the warrants without the attendance of the lawmakers.
In principle, even if a suspect refuses to appear for a court hearing, the court could issue a warrant.
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com)