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Rep. Hyun faces bribery charges

The prosecutors investigating the alleged cash-for-candidacy in the ruling Saenuri Party have confirmed some suspicions and are preparing to bring charges against Rep. Hyun Young-hee, news reports said Monday.

The Busan District Prosecutors Office grilled Rep. Hyun for about 14 hours through Monday and early Tuesday on the allegation that she arranged for the delivery of 300 million won ($265,000) to former Saenuri lawmaker Hyun Ki-hwan in exchange for her nomination in the April general elections.

As Rep. Hyun continued to deny the allegation raised by her former assistant Jeong Dong-geun, the prosecutors reportedly cross-examined the two.

Jeong reportedly gave a detailed recount of March 15. He allegedly picked up a shopping bag containing the money from at the office of Rep. Hyun’s husband in Busan, took a train to Seoul, and handed it over to Jo Gi-moon, a former Saenuri member in charge of public relations for the Busan district. Jo is suspected of having passed the money to Hyun Ki-hwan, who was a member of the party’s nomination committee at the time.

Prosecutors have reportedly acquired evidence from its search and seizure over the weekend of a massive cash withdrawal from the bank accounts of Rep. Hyun and her family.

It was reported that the prosecution plans to summon Rep. Hyun again as a suspect and apply for her detainment as early as within next week.

If found guilty, Rep. Hyun will face up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to million won for violating the Public Official Election Act and the Political Funds Law.
Rep. Hyun Young-hee (Yonhap News)
Rep. Hyun Young-hee (Yonhap News)

But the investigation into whether Hyun Ki-hwan actually received the money from Rep. Hyun is likely to take more time as there is no solid evidence yet, news reports said. Both Hyun Ki-hwan and Jo Gi-moon denied meeting up during that time.

Rep. Hyun is also suspected of six other offenses, including providing gifts to her voters between January and March, and offering monetary rewards above the legal limit to her volunteer workers.

The Saenuri Party decided earlier this week to expel both Hyuns.

The rivaling parties, meanwhile, locked horns over the escalating scandal.

The main opposition Democratic United Party claimed the prosecution was colluding with the ruling party to scale down the investigation, and heaped criticism against the ruling party’s presidential frontrunner.

“As we come to learn the whole story, it is becoming clearer that in the end, then-head of the emergency committee Park Geun-hye who had spearheaded the nomination and the general elections must take responsibility,” said DUP spokesman Jung Sung-ho in a press briefing.

The Saenuri Party retorted that the DUP should stop politicizing the issue.

“The DUP is having a heyday enjoying our impediment, when barely just several days ago, its floor leader Park Jie-won was facing questioning over bribery suspicions,” said Saenuri spokesman Hong Il-pyo in his press briefing. Park is suspected of receiving bribes from fallen savings banks in return for favors and appeared for the prosecutors’ questioning last week after shunning his summons three consecutive times. Park’s quandary was effectively overshadowed by the cash-for-candidacy scandal, the Saenuri Party officials claimed.

The Saenuri Party, while repeatedly underscoring that the cash-for-nomination case may be an individual misconduct that did not refflect the party as a whole, said it would launch an investigation committee for the case by Thursday. A neutral and external figure will head the 10-member committee, Hong said. The committee is being formed upon the demand by the four presidential runners, but not frontrunner Park Geun-hye.

Meanwhile, Saenuri Chairman Hwang Woo-yea rebuked criticism that he was taking the bullet for Park Geun-hye and emphasized he will only be stepping down if the allegation turns out to be true. Hwang had made the promise as dissenters criticized the party’s “lackluster” measures.

“(The allegation) must first be clarified, upon which we would then need to figure out whether it is the responsibility of the party, and I as chairman would be taking due responsibility depending on that,” Hwang said in a radio interview.

He added that it must be watched whether the alleged payoff was conducted personally, and also mentioned how Hyun Ki-hwan, who is strongly arguing his innocence, should have his honor restored if he is cleared off his allegation.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)
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