The Korea Herald


Inquiry of presidential aide, power blackouts put pressure on Lee


Published : Sept. 18, 2011 - 19:17

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Politicians and government officials are holding their breath as senior presidential aide Kim Du-woo faces prosecutorial interrogation this week over his connections with an indicted lobbyist who tried to save a corrupt mutual savings bank.

The implication of President Lee Myung-bak’s top secretary for public relations in a bribery case and calls for Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Joong-kyung, another former presidential aide, to step down overshadowed Cheong Wa Dae’s belated calls for stronger discipline of public office holders, reigniting concerns over Lee’s lame duck status.

Kim spoke with the lobbyist more than 90 times on the phone in the year to last April, including the day Park fled to Canada amid the prosecution’s inquiry, according to the Central Investigation Unit at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Park returned to Seoul nearly five months later in late August and was arrested last week for allegedly receiving 1.7 billion won from Busan Mutual Savings Bank in exchange for lobbying to prevent the bank’s suspension.

Park is suspected of spending most of the money on high-profile figures to pull strings for the savings bank. 
Kim Du-woo Kim Du-woo

Kim, who had served as Lee’s secretary for political affairs and then as planner of Lee’s public messages, was promoted to Cheong Wa Dae’s chief of planning and management last year and then to top aide for public relations in June. Kim resigned last week upon receiving a subpoena from the prosecution.

In response to a news report three weeks ago on his ties with Park and possible influence peddling, Kim said there was no soliciting regarding the bank although he has personally known Park for about 10 years.

Park told prosecutors, however, that he played golf with Kim several times and delivered cash and gift certificates worth tens of millions of won.

The prosecution’s investigation of Kim and a state audit into the state power monopoly and distributor responsible for the power blackouts last Thursday are expected to intensify political pressure on Lee towards the end of his term.

Lee has been constantly criticized for his “revolving-door” appointments from a small pool of former colleagues and personal connections to top government posts.

The majority of the heads and auditors of Korea Power Exchange and the Korea Electric Power Corp. either worked with Lee back when he was in Hyundai Engineering & Construction or went to the same schools as the president, opposition lawmakers said Sunday.

By Kim So-hyun (