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PM’s ‘Busan Connection’ Scrutinized

Posted March. 07, 2006 03:35,   


In the wake of the scandal surrounding Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan’s golf outing with business leaders in Busan on March 1, Independence Movement Day, curiosity is running high over the prime minister’s personal connections in the port city.

Lee’s in-laws live in Busan, and he often participated in 2002 presidential campaign trail events in Busan. His brother-in-law works as a member of the Busan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) along with local business leaders who played golf with the prime minister on March 1.

Lee’s In-laws Run Big Businesses in Busan-

Prime Minister Lee’s father-in-law passed away in 2002 after running the biggest taxi company in Busan for decades.

Lee’s eldest brother-in-law (62) inherited the taxi company. It now owns 219 taxis, ranking among the top 10 among 99 companies in the city. His wife also runs another taxi company with 219 taxicabs in Busan. Lee’s mother-in-law, to whom Lee paid a visit after playing golf, lives in an apartment in Dongrae-gu, Busan.

The prime minister’s brother-in-law became a committee member of the BCCI last April. Because of this, some say that those who played golf on the national holiday intended to build personal ties with the prime minister or tried to lobby him.

A businessman who played golf with Lee in the same group is former president of the BCCI, and another business leader is a member of the BCCI. One who played golf in the different team from the prime minister was named as the next president, and his teammate is also a member of the chamber.

An official from the Prime Minister’s Office said, “Through his father-in-law who ran businesses in Busan, Lee knows business leaders who were close friends of his late father-in-law.”

In Charge of Busan During Presidential Election-

Lee participated in the 2002 presidential election campaign in Busan when President Roh Moo-hyun ran for president. His wife Kim Jung-ok and Representative Shin Ki-nam’s wife, who are both from Busan, accompanied Roh’s wife Kwon Yang-sook.

When Roh ran for president, Lee attended meetings with Busan’s transportation firms and labor unionists. He explained, “Who else would attend the meetings other than the son-in-law of a taxi company president?”

A representative from Busan said “In Busan, as anywhere else, some people try to ride on the coattails of the powerful and rich, and one of business leaders who played golf with Lee is typical in this regard. Whether it be former president Kim Yong-sam or Kim Dae-jung, he changes sides depending on who the president is.”

On the campaign trail, the prime minister shared episodes with his in-laws when he was in opposition to journalists.

His taxi company, once the biggest in Busan, was oppressed just because his son-in-law was an activist for political struggle. “My parents-in-law opposed the marriage of their daughter and a man who had no job, so my wife had to disown her parents,” said Lee.

Property Scandal-

Before he took the position, Lee once said, “After my father-in-law passed away, I could not find where his fortunes was, so I asked the National Tax Service for help. The NTS soon gave me the list of my late father-in-law’s property. My wife was inherited it.”

He bought his golf membership that he declared while reporting his estate with money he received from his father-in-law. Members of the opposition parties took issue with this in 2004 when Lee went through National Assembly confirmation hearings.

Roh Hoe-chan of the Democratic Labor Party criticized that “it takes 30 years for a cleaning woman working at the National Assembly to buy a golf membership with her pay of 570,000 won a month,” pointing out that a membership costs as much as 202.5 million won.

In reply to this particular criticism, Lee explained that “my father-in-law’s wish that I buy the membership for my health was the reason why I bought it with the inheritance money.”

When land speculation suspicions arose over land on Daebu Island, Ansan City, Gyeonggi Province bought by his wife, Lee explained that the 165 million won she used to buy the land came from the money his wife inherited from her late father.