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Ex-pres. Roh: My Wife Took Money From Bizman

Posted April. 08, 2009 06:10,   


Former President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday admitted that his wife received 300 million won (227,000 U.S. dollars) from a scandal-ridden businessman.

Roh was unexpectedly implicated in the bribery scandal in which five million dollars were given to Yeon Chul-ho, the son-in-law of his brother, Gun-pyeong, by Taekwang Industry CEO Park Yeon-cha.

At 3 p.m. yesterday, seven hours after the arrest of his former aide for administrative affairs Jung Sang-moon, Roh posted a letter of apology on his Web site, saying, “Jung was charged because he delivered the money to my wife.”

Roh also said he will cooperate with the investigation.

○ Suspicion over Roh’s confession

Jung was taken into custody in the morning at his home in southern Seoul for taking 300 million won in bribes from Park while serving as presidential secretary. Rumors had swirled that the money went to the former president’s family.

Some say former First Lady Kwon Yang-sook needed money for their son Gun-ho, who was studying in the United States, and that the 300 million won Jung received from Park went toward that purpose.

Jung’s arrest apparently forced Roh to admit that the money ended up in Kwon’s hands. Roh might have worried about Jung, who remains a confidant, being wrongly indicted for something his wife did.

Some say Roh took preemptive action because the probe will eventually find the real owner of the money, though Jung has claimed responsibility for the bribe.

Before issuing the apology, Roh reportedly consulted with attorney Moon Jae-in, Roh’s former chief secretary. This means Roh conducted a legal review of the case.

○ Borrowed or received?

It is unclear, however, whether Kwon borrowed the money from Park or received it with no intention to pay back. Given that Roh made no mention about this point, it is assumed that the money was not a loan.

Also unclear is if the money is related to 1.5 billion won (1.3 million dollars) Roh borrowed from Park with an IOU in March last year shortly after leaving office. Some speculate that Roh included the 300 million won that Kwon received while he was president in the IOU for 1.5 billion won to protect his family from investigation.

○ Questions over an unpaid debt

On why Kwon received the money, Roh cited an unpaid debt but declined to elaborate on that debt.

According to public disclosure of Roh’s personal assets made April 15 last year, he reported 970 million won (733,000 dollars) in assets as of Feb. 24 last year. The sum included a debt of 467 million won (353,000 dollars) Roh borrowed from financial institutions under his name for the construction of his residence in the village of Bongha in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province.

At that time, no debt was under Kwon’s name but she had 164 million won (124,000 dollars) in debt as of December 2006, according to the 2007 asset disclosure. Kwon borrowed the money to make a payment on a new apartment. No record of the debt’s repayment exists in the asset disclosure document.

○ Investigation zeroes in on Roh’s family

Prosecutors reacted cautiously after Roh’s apology. Senior prosecutor Hong Man-pyo said, “We’ll take into account the letter of apology former President Roh posted on his Web site. The probe into the truthfulness of the letter’s content, however, will be carried out after the investigation into former presidential aide Jung.”

Roh said he will give more detailed testimony in the investigation, adding, “I will be judged appropriately according to the law.”