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Officials in Shanghai to probe sex scandal

A government investigation team arrived in Shanghai, China, Sunday, to investigate the sex-for-favors scandal involving several South Korean diplomats and a Chinese woman, officials said.

The high-profile probe into the scandal involving at least four of South Korea’s elite officials is to continue through Saturday. The case has seriously eroded public trust in diplomats’ ethical standards.

The diplomats in question, who worked at the consulate in Shanghai, are thought to have had inappropriate relationships with Deng Xinming, the Chinese woman who purportedly helped Chinese people obtain South Korean visas easily with help from them.

They are also alleged to have leaked confidential data such as the consulate’s visa records and mobile phone numbers of senior officials and politicians to the 33-year-old woman.

Investigators are to question some of the employees and diplomats at the consulate. The probe team consists of officials from the Foreign Ministry, Justice Ministry and a division within the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of investigating public officials’ ethics code violations.

“We will focus on verifying the truth behind the scandal as soon as possible,” said a senior government official in an interview. To a question of whether the government sees the scandal as an espionage case or a mere sex scandal, he said, “There are a whole bunch of suspicions surrounding it.”

Observers here said that the investigation team is expected to have difficulty getting to the bottom of the case as Deng’s whereabouts remain unknown and it has no legal authority to investigate her.

The division under the Prime Minister’s Office interrogated Kim Jung-ki, former consul-general in Shanghai, last week over the scandal. Investigators are expected to call him in again for questioning after having finished their inquiry in Shanghai.

By Song Sang-ho  (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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