lsquoI will forfeit my life if I received any bribe’

By Do Je-hae

Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo is facing calls within his own political party to resign over a widespread allegation that he took kickbacks from the late Keangnam Enterprises Chairman Sung Woan-jong.

Lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party are even calling for a special counsel to investigate the alleged bribery scandal that pivots around Lee.

The prime minister said he would appear before prosecutors to be questioned over the suspicion he received 30 million won from a slush fund created by Sung during a 2013 April parliamentary by-election.

He went on to say he would even forfeit his life if the speculation over his involvement is found to be true during a parliamentary interpellation session, Tuesday.

The ruling Saenuri Party is pressing the prosecution to embark on an investigation of the allegation. “The prosecution should investigate Lee’s alleged involvement at the earliest,” said party floor leader Rep. Yoo Seung-min.

Yoo said the party came to the decision during a meeting of its Supreme Council.

“Any public official, regardless of their rank, should undergo a fair investigation if suspicions of corruption are raised. The prime minister is no exception. ”

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) condemned Lee’s association with one of the biggest political scandals of the Park Geun-hye administration.

Party Chairman Rep. Moon Jae-in called on both Park’s chief of staff Lee Byung-kee and the prime minister to resign.

“It is unprecedented for both the presidential chief of staff and prime minister to come under suspicion. They should step down to prevent such speculation from snowballing,” Moon said.

Rep. Jun Byung-hun said, “It is clear that the prime minister is a suspect in the investigation. We will seek a special prosecutor if he remains in office. It is not right for a prime minister to cling to his post at such times.”

Jun leads an NPAD committee organized last week to deal with the bribery scandal that involves Lee and seven more Park aides.

“Since the parliamentary nomination hearing, Lee has repeatedly lied about his past, making a mockery of the National Assembly and the people,” Rep. Yoo Eun-hae, an NPAD spokeswoman, said during a press briefing, Tuesday. “We call for Lee’s immediate resignation and a prompt prosecution investigation.”

A Kyunghyang Shinmun interview with Sung conducted before his suicide, published Tuesday, contained Sung’s confession that he had given Lee 30 million won during the election. In the interview, Sung castigated the prime minister for launching an anti-corruption campaign right after taking office in February when “Lee himself should be investigated.”

Lee ran for a parliamentary seat on the ruling Saenuri Party ticket, winning in the counties of Buyeo and Cheongyang in South Chungcheong Province.

“I have not taken one penny from Sung,” Lee told reporters before a Cabinet meeting ahead of the National Assembly session.

The prosecution has launched an investigation into the corruption scandal involving Park’s aides.

Cheong Wa Dae is taking a cautious approach on calls for Lee’s resignation. “We are not jumping to conclusions,” Min Kyung-Wook, presidential spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.

The nation’s No.2 man in charge is one of eight political stalwarts listed on a slush fund memo left behind by Sung, the former chairman of a troubled construction company who committed suicide last week.

The memo includes President Park’s two previous chiefs of staff mdash Huh Tae-yeol and Kim Ki-choon mdash as well as the incumbent, Lee Byung-kee.

SOURCE: The Korea Times