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Civic Group Exec Extorted Companies

Posted May. 24, 2006 03:02,   


An executive of a civic group was arrested for extorting money from a company, using his close relationship with broadcast journalists as a weapon.

Supreme Prosecutors’ Office arrested Park (aged 50) yesterday who was a former manager of Transportation Citizens’ Union and secretary-general of Citizens’ Solidarity 21 on charges of blackmailing.

In October 2001, Park, then-manager of the Transportation Citizens’ Union, allegedly threatened employees of company W and said that he would report to broadcasting companies that the company used corrupt means to sign a supplies contract worth billions of won with Seoul Metro. Park subsequently received three million won of drink charge and an additional 50 million won from W.

Prosecutors said they confirmed the legality of the contract.

Park is alleged to have told executives of food company P in August 2004, while he was the secretary-general of Citizens’ Solidarity 21, “A reporter at MBC and I received news materials on your company’s use of Chinese beans that were affected by agricultural chemicals, which is in contrast to your promotion that the company uses organic agricultural products.” Park then called in the executives to an expensive bar in Gangnam and had them pay the 2.2 million won bill for him.

Two reporters from KBS and MBC were there, and Park boasted about his close relationship with them to executives of P, the prosecution reported.

Park also demanded 650 million won from P twice in September 2004, saying he needed the money to analyze organic foods that are produced and sold by large organic food makers.

P requested an official contract, which Park rejected. On October 25 that year, KBS reported suspicions Park raised about P.

A former executive of P noted, “To my knowledge, some companies accepted Park’s demands because even if his suspicions turned out to be unfounded, it would still have hurt their image.”

Meanwhile, the MBC reporter who accompanied Park at the bar explained, “I had no idea about who were coming and what the gathering was for. I just got a call from Park, my associate, so I joined him. I left early after I said hi to executives of P.”

A KBS reporter, who reported for “News 9” of KBS on October 25, 2004, that green juice produced by P used organic agricultural products that were affected by insecticides as ingredients, said, “I started collecting news materials on that after Park reported it to me. I had not even known Park before that.”

At the time, KBS gave follow-up reports on October 26 and 28. It released a counter-argument report on November 5, 2004, covering P’s explanations after P submitted a press arbitration.

Jung-Bo Suh woogija@donga.com suhchoi@donga.com