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[Newsmaker] Ex-vice minister summoned for questioning over sex bribery scandal

Former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui appeared before the prosecution for the first time Thursday, to undergo questioning with regard to allegations of rape, abuse of power, and accepting bribes in the form of sexual services.

Ex-Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui (Yonhap)
Ex-Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui (Yonhap)

Kim, who retired from public service in March 2013, is accused of having received sexual services in return for business favors at an orgy hosted by local contractor Yoon Jung-cheon.

It is the first time Kim has appeared in public for prosecutorial questioning since the allegations were levied against him in 2013.

Kim, 63, said he would cooperate faithfully with the investigation as he entered the prosecutors’ building in southern Seoul. He would not answer reporters’ questions about his relationship with Yoon or say whether he was the person in the orgy video.

A video surfaced in 2013 showing a sex party involving several men and women at Yoon’s villa in Wonju, Gangwon Province, sometime in 2006 or 2007. One of the men in the video is believed to be Kim. A witness who was in the video said on a KBS TV news program that she had seen photos of 30 female victims during the investigation, and that she too had been victimized.

Kim has denied all accusations and maintains he does not know Yoon.

The current investigation centers on bribery allegations against Kim. An independent panel under the Ministry of Justice asked the prosecution to reopen the case in March and look into the matter again.

As for the other charges -- such as rape and illegal filming of sex videos -- the prosecution is looking into whether it can charge Kim based on the testimony of women who say they were victims.

Prosecutors have twice investigated the allegations surrounding Kim -- in 2013 and 2014.

But no charges were filed on either occasion, giving rise to suspicions that the prosecution failed to investigate the case thoroughly in an effort to protect him and that a powerful figure in the Park Geun-hye administration may have been behind it.

Following the recommendations of the independent panel, the prosecution launched a special investigation team of 13 prosecutors in March to reopen the case.

Prosecutors are also investigating Yoon, 58, on allegations that he sought business favors from government officials and other influential figures, including Kim, by arranging for prostitutes.

Yoon, who has been summoned for questioning on six occasions, is said to have given the prosecution testimony that could implicate Kim in bribery.

(laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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