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[Newsmaker] Prosecutors widen probe into ex-Lee aide

 A former presidential secretary during the Lee Myung-bak administration has been placed under a widening investigation for irregularities, with fresh allegations suggesting he meddled in the designation of his daughter as a professor at his former college.

Park Bum-hoon, then-aide for Lee, is suspected of forcing the Education Ministry to give favors to Chung-Ang University’s application for its Seoul-Anseong campus consolidation by abusing his authority as presidential secretary. He was president of the university before joining Lee’s camp.

The prosecution plans to summon officials of Chung-Ang University and the Education Ministry to probe Park’s influence-peddling regarding various approval and authorization processes linked to the school.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office raids Chung-Ang University to search for evidence against the university’s former dean Park Bum-hoon on Monday. (Yonhap)
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office raids Chung-Ang University to search for evidence against the university’s former dean Park Bum-hoon on Monday. (Yonhap)

Corruption allegations involving Park are being released file-after-file, as the prosecution tightens its investigations into former ranking officials of the Lee administration, as well as their ties with conglomerates such as POSCO.

Park, who served for Chung-Ang University as president from 2005 to 2011, worked at Cheong Wa Dae from February 2011 to February 2013 as senior secretary for education and culture.

Along with spreading suspicions of Park exerting influence in various personnel decisions at the school, prosecutors are also reportedly looking into the background of how his daughter was hired as a professor of an art college at the school at the age of 33 in September last year, Chosun Ilbo reported Monday.

Insiders were quoted as saying that most faculty members spend around 10 years as part-time lecturers before securing a seat, and hence most professors are in their 40s.

Park has also been suspected of engaging in illicit college admission practices, complying with several requests from social dignitaries for their sons and daughters’ entrance.

Further, investigative authorities are also reportedly looking into any dubious transaction involving a training institute for gugak, Korean traditional music, during his term as the university head.

In 2008 Park donated his land in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province, to a gugak art performance association to establish a training center, backed by 900 million won in funds from the Yangpyeong-gun Office. He was working as the college head and the project could be regarded as a social contribution.

But the ownership of the land was handed over to a foundation, held by Park, again in March 2013. Currently, Park and his oldest daughter was registered as directors of the foundation.

The land, which stood at 9,000 won per square meter when he was donating it, is hovering at 150,000 won.

The Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office is interrogating the former presidential aide while internally fine-tuning whether to seek an arrest warrant for him on a variety of corruption charges.

Park, who graduated from the same university in 1976, majored in music composition.

By Kim Yon-se (