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Roh, No Irregularities in Financial Scandals

Posted May. 28, 2003 21:20,   


President Roh Moo-hyun held a press conference Wednesday to clarify his position on a series of allegations regarding details of his involvement in a mineral water firm and ownership of land in Gimhae, Kyungnam Province. “I want to apologize to my fellow Koreans that controversy has been stirred up over suspicions involving people around me,” the President said, offerring a formal apology to the nation.

Opposition Grand National Party`s lawmaker Kim Moon-su alleged that the land was seized by the Korea Lease Financing Co. as security against an unpaid loan to a mineral water company, which was owned by the President and his aides. The debt was repaid in February after Roh took office. Questions were raised that the President was the real owner of the land and that the cash may have been siphoned off from his political funds.

Regarding these allegation, the President said that the debt in question was repaid through the auctioning off of his brother`s other plot of land, amounting to 1.2 billion won worth, and the leased equipment from the mineral water firm, worth 200 million won. Lee Ki-myung, former leader of the President`s sponsor group, paid about 1.8 billion won for his land in Yong-in, Gyeonggi Province.

"I have nothing to do with other properties owned by my older brother (other than the land in my hometown)," Roh said at a press conference. "The only exception is the land and shops in Jinyeong, Gimhae City,” said the President.

Roh said he invested in real estate in his hometown Jinyeong at the request of his older brother Kun-pyong but added that the ownership of the properties fell into his brother`s hands after the president borrowed money to invest in the mineral water firm.

President Roh explained in April, 2002, that Chairman of Taekwang Industry Park

Yeoun-cha bought the land in Geoje, Kyungnam Province from his brother. The President said it was not the first time that Park bought his brother`s land, adding that the businessman bought the President`s brother`s property as a sign of good faith.

Regarding his investment in the mineral water company, President Roh said he acquired the managerial rights to the company at the end of 1996 and established the distribution company, `Oasiswater` in 1999. He did not participate in the management of the company, other than the occasional injection of necessary funds to run the company from his close acquaintances.

The President emphasized that in the process, there were no irregularities and influence peddling involved and he did not commit anything illegal. “I think it is undesirable to consider that all land and financial transactions involving myself and my family members have been condemned as illegal,” he said. It is time to stay away from needless arguments that waste national resources and that lead to national division.”

However, the GNP lawmaker said: “The press conference called by the President seems to have further fueled suspicions. The prosecution should launch an investigation to unveil a whole truth.”

Meanwhile, the GNP on May 28 formed a special committee to disclose details of land and financial transactions related to the President`s family members and his close aides.

Jeong-Hun Kim Yeon-Wook Jung jnghn@donga.com jyw11@donga.com