Seoul paid millions to North Korea ahead of summit: probe
SEOUL: Former president Kim Dae-Jung’s government secretly paid millions of dollars to North Korea ahead of a 2000 inter-Korea summit, a independent counsel said on Wednesday.
Two top aides to the former president were indicted along with six others as independent counsel Song Doo-Hwan concluded a 70-day probe into allegations that Kim’s administration bribed North Korea to stage the summit.
Park Jie-Won, former presidential chief of staff and Lim Dong-Won, former head of South Korea’s spy agency, were indicted on charges related to the payment to the communist North Korean regime.
The probe has focused on the secret transfer of 500 million dollars to Pyongyang by Hyundai Group just prior to the 2000 summit.
Hyundai said the money was payment for Hyundai’s monopoly rights to tourism and other projects in the communist state.
The special prosecutor said the money transfer included 100 million dollars in payments from the government to North Korea which he said were “linked” to the landmark summit, though he stopped short of describing them as a bribe.
“In pre-summit talks, the government promised to provide 100 million dollars to North Korea, and the Hyundai group was asked to transmit the money for the government,” Song told a televised news conference.
“The government was involved in secret cash remittances, which were made through improper channels.
“Such remittances were apparently linked to the summit, but I hope there will be no more time-consuming political wrangling over this.”
Chung Mong-Hun, the chairman of Hyundai Asan which is at the forefront of South Korean business ties to North Korea, was also indicted for his alleged role in the clandestine scheme.
The 2000 summit between Kim and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-Il is seen as the crowning achievement of Kim’s presidency and helped win him the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize.
Kim, 78, who stepped down in February at the end of a five-year term, has defended his North Korea policy, saying he acted in the national interest and in the name of preserving peace on the Korean peninsula.
The two Koreas fought a bloody civil war that ended in stalemate 50 years ago. The rival states never signed a peace treaty and are still technically at war. The summit probe was approved by Kim’s successor, President Roh Moo-Hyun, in response to suspicions that North Korea had taken a pay-off for holding the summit.
Song had asked for a one-month extension of his probe but was turned down by Roh.
The conservative Grand National Party which controls parliament has condemned Roh’s decision and has vowed to pursue the investigation.
A spokesman said the bribery allegations had now been established as true but suggested the sums involved may have been considerably more the 100 millions dollars.
A spokesman for the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), founded by Kim Dae-Jung, said the payments were an affair of state and made in the best interests of the country.
Kim’s former aides Park and Lim and the Hyundai Asan chairman Chung were allegedly involved in arranging loans from the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) to Hyundai. With the help of South Korea’s intelligence service, the money was then allegedly dispatched to North Korean bank accounts.
Park is also accused of taking 15 billion won (12.6 million dollars) in bribes from Hyundai, an allegation flatly denied by Park. Eight people have now been indicted in connection with the summit probe, including former Korean Development Bank president Lee Keun-Young and Lee Ki-Ho, former top economic advisor to Kim Dae-Jung. —AFP