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Leak scandal escalates

The presidential office said on Wednesday it will dismiss a public relations official who reportedly raised allegations that Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung secretly triggered a recent political scandal involving competing groups of aides to President Park Geun-hye.

Eum Jong-hwan offered to resign after a news photograph showed Kim’s written memo, apparently a quote from a remarks made by Eum last month. It read, “K and Y are behind the ‘document gate.’ Will unveil the truth. You will see. An announcement will come shortly.”

“K” is said to stand for the ruling party leader and “Y” for Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the same party.

Lee Jun-seok, a ruling party member, said Eum made the remark during a meeting between Cheong Wa Dae and party officials on Dec. 18, which he relayed to Kim during a recent conversation.

“Administrative officer Eum denied the report that he made such a statement but tendered his resignation, taking responsibility for causing concern by misbehaving as a public official,” presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters.

Eum is one of the presidential officials embroiled in the scandal.

Kim has been struggling to head off the allegation about his role in the scandal after the photo published Tuesday sparked a new feud within his party.

“It was preposterous,” Kim said in his New Year news conference Wednesday. 
Kim Moo-sung
Kim Moo-sung

Kim expressed concerns that the so-called Chung Yoon-hoi scandal is threatening to derail President Park’s economic reform initiatives.

The scandal began to surface last November after presidential papers that investigated Chung Yoon-hoi, Park’s former secretary, were leaked to a local daily.

The papers alleged that Chung had meddled in government affairs and personnel decisions using his close ties to incumbent Cheong Wa Dae officials.

Chung has denied the accusations. Prosecutors have concluded the rumors are false and indicted those who wrote the report and leaked it to the media.

But the public appears unconvinced, according to multiple local polls. A survey by Ace Research and Consulting Group and the Seoul Shinmun, a local daily, showed 63.5 percent of 1,010 respondents did not trust the prosecution’s investigations.

The poll was conducted a few days after the prosecution announced its investigation results, with a margin of error of 3 percent and a 95 percent confidence level.

Park’s critics had been anticipating a reshuffle of Park’s top aides in the New Year, but she expressed reluctance to do so, sparking criticism within her own party.

“It doesn’t matter if the scandal is true or not,” Saenuri Rep. Lee Jae-oh said Wednesday. “If the public wants the president to change her aides, then the president must deliver. If you go against public opinion, it’s going to get more difficult to push through key reforms and legislation.”

Lee is a well-known Park opponent, and a confidant of ex-President Lee Myung-bak, Park’s former political rival.

But pro-Park Saenuri Party lawmakers refuted their critics.

“I also have something to say,” Rep. Lee Jung-hyun said only minutes after Rep. Lee Jae-oh had expressed his doubts about the president.

“The public wants the government and us politicians to improve the economy. I think that the president has been genuinely trying to do just that.”

If the Saenuri Party’s internal bickering escalates, political wrangling could impede legislation of bills aiming to restructure Korea’s economy, effectively paralyzing Park’s goals of reforming the public officials’ pension and easing employment regulations.

By Jeong Hunny (