The prosecution has requested that a local court sentence Choi Yul of the Korea Green Foundation to four years in prison and an 130 million won ($113,000) fine for his alleged embezzlement.
Officers of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office told Judge Kim Woo-jin of Seoul Central District Court at a trial that the case is serious because Choi leads one of the most influential civic groups. “Civic activists are expected to have a higher standard of morality,” they said.
According to investigators, Choi appropriated a total of 500 million won from corporate donations for his brother’s business when he was at the helm of the Korea Federation for Environmental Movement in 2001. He was also accused last year of receiving 130 million won from a businessman trying to develop an environmentally friendly industrial complex in Gyeonggi Province in return for influence on local administrators in 2007.
Choi has pleaded not guilty, claiming the money alleged to have been embezzled is in fact a “payback” of what he had lent the KFEM in 1996 for an urgent project. He also admitted to having borrowed some money from a real estate developer but said it was a financial transaction, not a kickback.
Choi is one of the pioneering environmentalists in Korea, but stepped down from the position of KFEM president due to the scandal.
He supported Moon Kook-hyun, former chairman of the minor opposition Creative Korea Party, in the 2007 presidential election. He was investigated in 2008 for making donations to Moon with the foundation’s money but was later cleared of charges.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)