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Prosecution targets opposition lawmakers over bribe charges

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Published : 2014-09-02 20:29
Updated : 2014-09-02 20:29

Prosecutors are intensifying their investigation into bribery allegations involving opposition politicians and a college, though a Seoul court has rejected the prosecution’s proposal that arrest warrants be issued for two incumbent lawmakers.

The prosecution recently summoned Jeon Hyun-hee, a former lawmaker of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, to question her about the suspicion that several lawmakers took kickbacks from Seoul Arts College.

While Jeon is not an investigation target, the prosecution is focusing on the allegation that Jeon ― along with two other NPAD lawmakers ― had cozy relations with SAC chairman Kim Min-seong.

The prosecution alleges that the college chairman offered bribes to Reps. Sin Geh-ryeun and Shin Hak-yong of the main opposition party in return for omitting the term “vocational” from the Korean name of Seoul Arts College.

Appearing at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, Jeon reportedly told investigators that she was not aware of the charges.

Prosecutors have continued to argue that investigators “have already secured a statement from SAC chairman Kim, who has said the school handed over money to some opposition lawmakers.”

Rep. Kim Jae-yun of the NPAD has been charged with receiving kickbacks worth 15 million won ($14,700). Rep. Sin Geh-ryeun is suspected of taking 50 million won in bribes from Seoul Arts College, and Rep. Shin Hak-yong was also reportedly involved in the alleged bribery.

The Seoul Central District Court, however, turned down the prosecution’s proposal to issue arrest warrants for Reps. Sin Geh-ryeun and Shin Hak-yong on Aug. 21. Only the warrant for Kim Jae-yun was issued.

But the prosecution is still considering indicting Sin and Shin without detention.

The investigative authority also appears to have not ruled out the possibility of reseeking warrants for the two lawmakers.

It seems that the prosecution may indict Kim, whose constituency is Seogwipo, Jejudo Island, as early as this week. He has gone on a hunger strike to protest having been detained by the prosecution.

In an earlier statement, Sin said that he “has not received kickbacks concerning the school name-change approval.”

Shin also said, “Though my aides were investigated by the prosecution, I have not been connected to the case.”

Some political pundits claim that the prosecution is seeking to suppress the opposition party in an alleged bid to offset the various mistakes in its manhunt for the sunken ferry Sewol owner Yoo Byung-eun, who was found dead on June 12 and buried on Aug. 31.

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

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