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Lobbyist, Ex-Finance Minister Linked?

Posted April. 03, 2006 03:00,   


“When Lee Hun-jae [former deputy prime minister and Minister of Finance and Economy] attended the Asia Development Bank (ADB) General Assembly held at Chiang-mai, Thailand in May 2000, he was accompanied by Oh Ho-soo and Kim Jae-rok [detained]. Kim bought him drinks,” said a former Ministry of Finance and Economy official.

“In early 2000, I accompanied Mr. Lee and Kim in Tokyo for drinks. When I chastised Kim for being rude, Mr. Lee took Kim’s side,” said another former Ministry of Finance and Economy official.

Numerous former high-ranking finance officials have testified that the former deputy prime minister and Kim enjoyed a special relationship. They rarely fail to mention Oh in these testimonies.

The former deputy prime minister has refused to answer questions from reporters.

This is in contrast to other former ministers of finance and economy who are making excuses about their alleged relationship with Kim, such as Kang Bong-gyun, Jin Nyum, and Kim Jin-pyo.

Does he have nothing to say, or is there something he cannot reveal?

Kim Jae-rok: Lee Hun-jae’s “Man?”-

Evidence indicates that Kim became acquainted with Lee during the early years of the Kim Dae-jung government. By providing a variety of policy ideas, Kim gradually gained the trust of Lee.

Concluding from the testimonies of ministry officials and finance personnel, Kim held the attention of Lee to the extent that he could be called “Lee Hun-jae’s man.”

Lee Jong-koo, GNP assemblyman and former director of finance polices in the Ministry of Finance and Economy stated, “Kim also accompanied the former prime minister during business trips abroad,” and that “at the time, there were many deals overseas.”

A finance executive of Arthur Anderson who worked with Kim said that “Mr. Kim and the former prime minister met up frequently for drinks,” and that “The drinking sessions were so frequent that Mr. Kim, who could not drink too much, sometimes looked for excuses to avoid them.”

Testimonies also confirmed that a number of ministry officials were suspicious of Kim and advised the minister to stay away from him.

A ministry official stated, “a number of people advised Mr. Lee to stay away from Kim, but it was no use,” and that “there were rumors that Kim knew his weakness and was taking advantage of him.”

When prosecutors commenced investigations Kim resigned as chairman of Investus Global and selected Oh Ho-soo in his place. As former chairman of the Korea Securities Dealers Organization, Oh was close to Lee to the point of being called “the godfather of the Lee Hun-jae corporation.”

Kim Young-jae, head of Consus Asset Management Co., who was close to Lee and was a former spokesperson of the Financial Supervisory Commission, said that “Mr. Lee met anyone who had good ideas,” and added that “even until recently Kim brought home a lot of juicy information.”

Lee drops out of sight-

After the Kim incident the former deputy prime minister sequestered himself from others. According to those close to him Lee was scheduled to visit Japan, but canceled his plans after the incident.

Rumors speculated that Lee was forbidden from leaving the country, but the prosecution denied the rumors.

The Dong-A Ilbo waited until dawn in front of Lee’s house at Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul everyday last week, but could not meet him. We left a number of messages on his answering machine but received no answer. It was the same for Oh.

Kim Young-jae stated, “He met friends in the afternoon and played golf, and nothing much was changed,” and added, “he just doesn’t feel the need to respond to the accusations.”

Lee was spotted playing golf on April 1 with acquaintances at the Songchu CC in Yangju city, Gyeonggi-do.


As the scope of investigation broadens, more suspicion has amassed against Lee. When the incident was first reported, speculations had merely pointed to a friendship with Lee in the process of Kim expanding his relations and taking large-scale service orders from the government and private sector.

But after the central investigation unit of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office announced the seizure and search of Lone Star, it was revealed that Kim was involved in Lone Star purchasing the Korea Exchange Bank at a low price in 2003, and the prosecution and financial circles have started to voice suspicions that the former prime minister might have been involved either directly or indirectly.

The “maybe” during the early stages of investigations has led to “perhaps there is something more,” as Lee continues to keep silent.

Jin-Young Hwang buddy@donga.com