South Korea: Conglomerates Involved in Slush Scandal

Publisher Name: 
BBC

The man who narrowly lost last year's presidential
race in South Korea has admitted his campaign finances
included $42m in illegal donations.

Lee Hoi-chang, of the Grand National Party, made the
admission in a televised news conference, then turned
himself in to state prosecutors.

The shock statement is the latest twist in a scandal
which also threatens President Roh Moo-hyun, since
four former aides have been implicated.

Mr Roh said he would resign if his party is found to
have taken one tenth as much in illegal funding as the
GNP.

Mr Lee said on Monday that his party had taken 50
billion won ($42 million) in illegal funds from
business conglomerates.

The legal maximum fixed for last year's campaign was
34.1bn won ($28.8m) per candidate.

"I confess this was done under my charge and I'm
entirely responsible for this," the GNP's former
leader told reporters.

The former Supreme Court justice, who retired from
politics after his defeat by Mr Roh, said it was only
right he should "take all the responsibility and
punishment", adding that he was ready to go to jail.

State prosecutors arrested Mr Lee's key legal adviser,
Suh Jong-woo, last week on charges of taking illegal
donations from conglomerates.

The scandal is also becoming increasingly damaging for
President Roh.

On Sunday, prosecutors arrested Ahn Hee-Hung, who
served as a campaign manager for Roh, on charges of
accepting illegal political donations.

A former confidant of Mr Roh's, Choi Do-sool, was
arrested in October on charges of taking US$956,000 in
bribes from SK, the nation's third-largest
conglomerate.

Two other aides, Lee Kwang-jae and Yang Gil-seung, are
under investigation for taking bribes.

Several of South Korea's major conglomerates have had
their offices raided in connection with the scandal.

An independent inquiry is probing the issue, after the
South Korean legislature over-rode Mr Roh's attempt to
veto the investigation.

Mr Roh said on Sunday that he would step down if the
inquiry found that his aides took more than a fraction
of that taken by the GNP.

"If the amount of our illegal funds is more than
one-tenth of the Grand National Party's, I will resign
from my presidential post and retire from politics,"
he said.

AMP Section Name:Money & Politics