Monday, April 19, 2021

Korea: Ex-vice justice minister quizzed over sex/bribery scandal

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Former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-ui was questioned Thursday over his alleged involvement in a sex scandal and acceptance of kickbacks.

This was the first summons for him in six years since 2013 when the allegations first emerged when he was tapped for the vice minister position.

Presenting himself at the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office, Kim only told reporters, “I’ll cooperate with the investigation faithfully.”

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The prosecution questioned the 63-year-old about whether he was provided with sexual services and kickbacks through building contractor Yoon Jung-cheon back in the 2000s.

In March 2013 when Kim was appointed to the vice minister position, it was alleged that Yoon had provided sex parties for Kim and other ranking officials between 2007 and 2008 at his remote holiday home in Wonju, Gangwon Province. The scandal was made public after a video clip was leaked showing an orgy with one man in attendance resembling Kim.

Kim resigned several days after the appointment and was investigated by police in June and by the prosecution in November that year. However, he was cleared by both bodies.

At the time, the investigations were focused on the sex party where a woman claimed she was raped by Kim and other participants; but this time, prosecutors are looking into fresh allegations of bribery and abuse of power. The new investigation was started in March on the recommendation of a fact-finding panel under the justice ministry.

The former vice minister is suspected of receiving tens of millions of won in kickbacks from Yoon as well as other favors including the sexual services and golf games. During recent questioning, Yoon told the prosecution he gave millions of won to Kim in 2007 and that Kim took an expensive painting from his holiday home in 2008.

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Yoon also said Kim demanded a house in return for helping him win a bid for a redevelopment project in Seoul in 2007. But the project was scrapped the next year.

If evidence is found that Kim received money or other favors exceeding 100 million won, he will face a trial and punishment if convicted, as the statute of limitations for bribery by such a high amount is 15 years.

Yoon also admitted that he provided women for sex with Kim.

Prosecutors will soon decide whether to seek an arrest warrant for Kim.

The former vice minister has repeatedly denied the allegations through his lawyer. He claimed he knew nothing about the video clip, saying the National Forensic Service had already said in 2013 it could not confirm whether he was the man in the video because the picture was blurry.

Despite the denial, he attempted to leave the country in March three days before the panel recommended reopening the investigation. His departure was stopped at the boarding gate as the prosecution quickly placed an overseas travel ban on him.

The prosecution is also looking into the allegation that then-President Park Geun-hye’s Cheong Wa Dae pushed for Kim’s appointment despite its awareness of the scandal and later attempted to interfere with the investigations by the police and the prosecution.

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