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Cash-for-votes scandal rocks ruling party

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 5, 2012 - 16:39

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Rep. Koh claims he was offered 3 million won from former party chief


The ruling Grand National Party on Thursday asked public prosecutors to launch an investigation into an allegation of vote buying during one of its past leadership contests.

The move followed a bombshell revelation a day earlier from Rep. Koh Seung-duk that he received an envelope containing 3 million won from a person close to a former party chief who was at that time vying for chairmanship.

“The council members agreed that this is a matter of great concern and must be clarified without delay,” Rep. Hwang Yeong-chul, the party’s spokesperson, told reporters after a GNP emergency leadership council meeting in the morning.

The cash-for-votes allegation dealt a severe blow to the conservative ruling party, already struggling with its public image as a corrupt party.

The party shifted into crisis management mode last month, putting Rep. Park Geun-hye, its strongest presidential candidate, at the helm of its efforts for sweeping reforms.
Park Geun-hye (second from left), interim leader of the ruling Grand National Party, presides over a meeting of the party’s emergency leadership council at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, on Thursday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald) Park Geun-hye (second from left), interim leader of the ruling Grand National Party, presides over a meeting of the party’s emergency leadership council at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, on Thursday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Park vowed to deal sternly with the allegation, mindful of its possible impact on voter sentiment ahead of general elections in April.

“We must clear all suspicions and unearth the truth as quickly as possible,” she said during the council meeting.

Last month, the GNP had asked lawmaker Choi Gu-shik to quit the party, as his former aide is accused of mounting a cyber attack against the National Election Commission during a round of by-elections in October.

Prosecutors are currently trying to verify suspicions that higher-ups in the GNP may have been involved in the attack, which opposition groups claim is one of the country’s worst election-rigging schemes. Rep. Choi left the GNP earlier this week.

Rep. Koh said he would cooperate fully with the prosecutorial investigation.

The first-term lawmaker said he returned the 3 million won immediately. Although he did not identify the former chief who he said gave him the money, he said the incident happened ahead of a party convention held between 2008 and 2010 to elect its leader.

“Both the former chief and the person who delivered the money to me on behalf of him belong to a faction loyal to President Lee Myung-bak,” he said.

Three conventions were held during that period, in which Reps. Park Hee-tae, Ahn Sang-soo and Hong Joon-pyo were elected as party leaders, but Ko said the incident did not take place in the July 4, 2011 convention, when Hong was elected leader.

Opposition parties slammed the ruling camp.

“Day after day, new corruption allegations arise, involving cronies and relatives of President Lee. Now it’s the Grand National Party,” said Oh Jong-sik, a spokesperson for the main opposition Democratic Unified Party.

“It looks like everything, even the party chairmanship, is buyable in the ruling camp.”

By Lee Sun-young  (milaya@heraldcorp.com)