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Opposition Party Secretary Arrested

Posted April. 22, 2006 03:14,   


Two cars blocked a sedan that was about to leave the Grand Hilton Seoul Hotel Convention Center at 9:45 p.m. on April 20.

At least four police officers descended from cars and began to search the Grandeur TG sedan. They found two fruit boxes in the trunk of the car containing 200 and 400 million won each.

The driver of the car was Jo Jae-hwan, secretary general of the minor opposition Millennium Democratic Party (MDP). His face was filled with a helpless expression.

Jo arrived at the hotel at 8: 20 p.m. and met Choi Rak-do, 68, a former three-term lawmaker, at a restaurant. Choi was preparing to run for a mayoral post in Kimje, North Jeolla Province, on the MDP’s ticket.

Around 9:00 p.m. when Choi finished eating, he received the car keys of Jo’s sedan and gave them to a man identified by his family name, Shin (58). Shin put the fruit boxes containing the money in Jo’s sedan.

Choi made a dinner appointment with Jo on the telephone on April 17. Before making the call, Choi asked Shin to prepare 400 million won on April 15. Shin borrowed money from acquaintances and ordered the employees of his cleaning company to change the money into 10,000 won notes. Police obtained information when Choi and Shin were coming to Seoul and placed 17 police officers in the vicinity of the hotel.

Choi gave Jo’s car keys back to Jo, got into an Equus and left the hotel around 9:40 p.m.

Unaware of the police officers’ presence, Jo tried to leave the hotel 10 minutes after Choi left, and was arrested on the spot. “I just handed over the car keys to Choi because he told me that he is going to put a present in the trunk of my car. I wasn’t aware of what the present was,” he told the police.

Police are planning to issue an arrest warrant the Jo for violating the Political Funds Law. Choi has been banned from leaving the country. The police are trying to find Choi, who disappeared after Jo was arrested.

Jae-Myoung Lee egija@donga.com