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Lawmakers lose seats over bribery charges

The Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced two lawmakers to four years in prison for taking kickbacks in exchange for business favors, in separate decisions that automatically strip them of their parliamentary seats.

Upholding the lower court’s ruling, the nation’s top court ruled Rep. Song Kwang-ho of the ruling Saenuri Party to four years in jail for taking bribes worth 65 million won from the railway parts supplier AVT to help the company win contracts with the state-run Korea Rail Network Authority.

The court also ordered him to pay a fine of 70 million won ($61,000) and forfeit another 65 million won.

The court said that testimonies that he received the bribe were trustworthy and the original verdict that he abused his power in return of the kickback was appropriate. Company officials asked Song to help them win government contracts related to the construction of high-speed railways in the Jeolla provinces, in return for the kickbacks. The four-term lawmaker was the chairman of the parliamentary committee on land, infrastructure and transport from 2010-2012. The committee oversees the railway management agency.

It also reaffirmed the lower court’s decision that even if the bribe was given in smaller portions and was delivered several times, it still remains subject to additional punishment. Under the law, a suspect accused of receiving a bribe worth more than 30 million won faces additional punishment.

Last year, the parliament voted down the prosecution’s request to arrest Song, but the lawmaker was arrested after he was sentenced to four years in prison at his first trial. He later appealed the ruling, which an appeals court rejected.

The appeals court, rejecting Song’s plea, said that he had committed a serious crime abusing his power as a four-term lawmaker and had abandoned his integrity as a legislator.

On the same day, another four-year prison term was upheld by the top court for Rep. Kim Jae-yun of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy convicted of taking 54 million won from a head of Seoul Art College.

Rep. Lee is one of three NPAD lawmakers charged with the bribery case. The three lawmakers pushed a law that allowed the school to be recognized as a “training school” and eliminate its previous name “vocational institute.” The prosecution has pressed seven- and five-year jail terms to Reps. Shin Geh-ryeun and Shin Hak-yong, respectively. They are waiting for their first trial to proceed.

Another Saenuri lawmaker, Rep. Cho Hyun-ryong, is also in an appellate trial over charges he received kickbacks from the railway part supplier. He was sentenced with five years in prisons from the lower courts.

With Song and Lee losing their parliamentary memberships, the National Assembly now has 295 seats in total, with the ruling Saenuri Party holding 158 and the NPAD, 127.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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