A senior official of Korea Aerospace Industries was found dead Thursday in an apparent suicide, amid a sprawling prosecutorial probe into corruption allegations surrounding the head of the country’s sole aircraft manufacturer.
According to police, the body of Kim In-sik, who was in charge of KAI’s overseas business as vice president, was found at his home in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province. A three-page suicide note was found near his body.
Kim’s death came a day after KAI Chief Executive Ha Sung-yong was arrested for accounting fraud. He is accused of directing the manipulation of financial records of the company‘s oversea projects and granting contracts to suppliers without a fair bidding process in return for kickbacks.
“I have done my best, but it’s so unfortunate that things didn’t work out,” Kim said in the note, according to investigative officials. Kim had been a close aide to Ha since he joined the company in 2005 after leaving the Air Force as a brigadier general.
Prosecutors on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for Ha, who had been detained without a warrant. Investigators are expected to focus on finding out whether Kim was involved in the charges circling Ha, who has denied most allegations.
One of the allegations facing Ha is that that the company made at least 24 billion won ($21.3 million) in illicit profits by inflating development costs for Surion utility helicopters, T-50 supersonic trainer jets and FA-50 light attack planes.
The prosecution is also believed to be looking into the possibility that Ha embezzled about 1 billion won from the company’s funds by creating false documents. The money was allegedly doled out to Ha and the board members.
Elected as KAI chief in 2013, Ha is also suspected of creating slush funds and inappropriately lobbying Cheong Wa Dae officials and lawmakers for his reappointment in May 2016, when former President Park Geun-hye was in power.
Before joining KAI in 2005, Kim had assumed various posts in the Air Force, including commander of the 8th Fighter Wing and executive officer to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was also in charge of an aircraft procurement project in the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.
He began his civilian career at KAI by working as a contractor in the United Arab Emirates. Since then, he has supervised most of the company’s overseas projects, including a deal to sell FA-50 jets to Iraq in 2013.
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)