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Moral Hazard at Cheong Wa Dae

Posted July. 31, 2003 21:34,   


Yang kil-seoung, Presisent Roh Moo-hyun`s close aide, turned out to have received a lavish treatment from a nightclub owner in Cheongju, North Chungcheong province, who was being under police investigation.

It was reported on July 31 that the presidential aide and 50 ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) North Chungcheong province branch leaders and other members had dinner at a restaurant in Cheongju and he and some of them had drinks at a nightclub there on June 28.

At a presidential senior secretary and aide meeting on that day, the president ordered the office of the senior secretary for civil affairs to reinvestigate the case and reflect the results in personnel changes scheduled for late August, in consultation with the personnel committee, according to presidential spokesman Yoon Tai-young.

Mr. Yang violated a government ethics code that went into effect in May that bans officials from receiving various services worth more than 30,000 won.

Earlier, the office of senior secretary for civil affairs conducted an investigation into the case after local newspapers reported it. However, the secretary`s office concluded that at that time it was unavoidable for him to receive the treatment at the nightclub and just warned him against receiving such lavish treatment verbally. Senior secretary for civil affairs Moon Hee-sang was briefed on the case while the president was not.

The nightclub owner, who also joined the drinking was being investigated on charges of evading taxes and breaking regulations on entertainment facility operations, so there are suspicions that the nightclub owner may have asked for Mr. Yang`s influence on the investigation.

After drinking Mr. Yang stayed overnight in the same room at R hotel where Roh stayed during his election campaign period.

Meanwhile, Yang submitted a letter of explanation and said that he met Mr. Lee first while drinking and heard that Mr. Lee had made great efforts during the presidential election. The presidential aide added that he did not know whether Lee was being investigated and receive the lavish treatment in return for his influence on the police investigation.

"First I planed to return to Seoul just after having dinner, but I went to drink due to the persuasions of other participants. And because the hotel room was booked, I stayed there," said the presidential aide. He also said that he felt regret for breaking the ethics code and was ready to take any punishment.

Jeong-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com