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Vice Health Minister Likely to Resign Over Scandal

Posted October. 16, 2008 04:54,   


Vice Health and Welfare Minister Lee Bong-hwa will reportedly resign over allegedly pocketing subsidies intended for rice farmers.

“The investigation into Vice Minister Lee has yet to be completed, but the issue has snowballed enough to burden state administration,” an official at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said yesterday.

“As this is an ethics matter rather than a violation of law, Lee will likely resign voluntarily than face dismissal.”

Lee could soon express his intent to resign, the official said, adding, “If he’s made up his mind, what’s the use of delaying it for a day or two? We cannot rule out that he will tender his resignation Thursday.”

Presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said, “We have reached an agreement that the investigation be carried out in a prompt and strict manner on public officials overall.”

In a news conference after a senior presidential secretaries’ meeting chaired by President Lee Myung-bak, spokesman Lee said, “An initial investigation showed that none of the 38 ministers and presidential secretaries applied for the subsidy.”

In the meeting, President Lee ordered a probe into all suspicions surrounding the subsidy system in addition to Vice Minister Lee.

“Among 1,508 senior government officials, three received the rice subsidy in their names last year,” said ruling Grand National Party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo at a general meeting of the National Assembly. “I understand that a government investigation is under way on senior officials’ relatives and spouses.”

“I will make officials who unethically took the subsidy return it, and those who broke the law will also face a heavy penalty, possibly prosecution in certain cases.”

Hong also said parliament and the administration will seek a measure to prevent illegal receipt of the subsidy. “I will fully address the issue at meetings of related parliamentary committees, such as the Judiciary Committee and the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee,” he added.

He opposed, however, the demand of the main opposition Democratic Party for a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.

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