Roh appears to have taken his own life, according to police. The three-term lawmaker, who was the party’s floor leader, had just returned the previous day from a six-day visit to the United States with floor leaders of other political parties.
|Police move the body of Roh Hoe-chan, floor leader of the minor opposition Justice Party, from an apartment complex in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)|
An apartment security guard found Roh in front of the building and called police at 9:38 a.m., police said. Roh’s jacket and a wallet with notes were found on the staircase between the 17th and 18th floors of the building, according to police.
Roh had been suspected of receiving a bribe of some 50 million won ($44,300) in 2016 from a lawyer who is currently being investigated by an independent counsel team as one of the key figures behind an online political opinion-rigging scandal. A power blogger known as “Druking” and his community are accused of manipulating internet comments for political purposes.
Roh had refuted the accusations, denying any links with the online community referred to as “Economic Coevolution.” In one of three notes found Monday, Roh admitted to having received money from the lawyer, surnamed Do, but added it was not related to illicit solicitation, according to police. Lee apologized to his family in the two other notes.
“In March 2016, I received a total of 40 million won from Economic Coevolution on two separate occasions. There was no illegal solicitation and I did not promise them any favorable treatment,” one of the notes revealed by the Justice Party reads.
“I had later learned that I should have taken proper procedures to receive the money, but I did not. It was a foolish decision and shameful judgment. I need to take responsibility.”
Roh also apologized to the party and the people in the note.
Roh was acquitted of receiving illegal political funds in an investigation during the general election period in 2016. At the time, the prosecution and police concluded Roh did not receive the money because the community failed to deliver it. However, an independent counsel team, led by special prosecutor Huh Ik-bum, moved to review the case again after it said it found proof that Do had manipulated evidence to draw an acquittal in 2016.
On Monday, Huh expressed his condolences, but refused to speak about further plans of the probe.
“My heart aches to hear the unexpected news. Roh was a politician I personally admired,” Huh said in a briefing with reporters.
Seoul Central District Court on Monday accepted the prosecution’s request to hold additional hearings over the “Druking” case, and decided to push back the date of sentencing, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday. The prosecution filed the request Friday.
Political parties and lawmakers expressed sorrow over Roh’s death.
“Roh was a politician who flung himself into advocating the rights of those who were less represented in society,” said Rep. Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.
Rep. Hong, who came back from the US trip with Roh, could not conceal his tears as he spoke of the loss.
Rep. Kim Sung-tae, the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party also described Roh’s death as “painful and tragic.”
“Roh has always been in the field, speaking on behalf of isolated laborers in difficulty. I cannot (understand) how that sincerity ended in his tragic death,” Rep. Kim said.
Roh was a liberal political figure who had worked to promote labor rights for decades.
Born in Busan in 1956, his desire for democracy and labor rights was spotted in his early years. While attending Kyunggi High School in Seoul, he created printouts that carried messages criticizing the draconian Yushin Constitution introduced by then-President Park Chung-hee.
As a university student, he took part in the pro-democracy and labor rights movements. As a university student, Roh hid his educational background to be hired at a factory as a welder in 1982.
In 2004, Roh entered politics as a proportional representative of the Democratic Labor Party. He participated in the founding of the Unified Progressive Party and was elected as a lawmaker representing the Nowon-C district in Seoul in 2012.
In October 2012, he defected to create the Justice Party, and was elected for his third term at the National Assembly to represent Seongsan District in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, in 2016. He had since been the floor leader of the Justice Party.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)