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Former PM Han Cleared of Bribery Charges

Posted April. 10, 2010 05:20,   


Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook was found not guilty of bribery yesterday.

She had been indicted on the charge of taking 50,000 U.S. dollars in kickbacks from former Korea Express President Kwak Young-wook, who allegedly asked her to help him become the head of Korea Coal Corp.

In the first trial, the Seoul Central District Court said in a ruling, “Kwak’s testimony is the sole evidence in this case. Yet his testimony was inconsistent in whether he bribed her and how much money he gave Han.”

“Kwak, who was in poor health, could have given false testimony to satisfy prosecutors since he was frightened of a harsh investigation. Considering the condition of the venue of the luncheon meeting, it would have been impossible for Han to hide the money in an hour.”

The court ruled that other charges surrounding the 50,000 dollars need not be reviewed since no evidence supports the prosecutors’ argument that Han received kickbacks from Kwak.

The ruling, however, said nothing on whether Han received golf clubs from Kwak and stayed at a golf resort owned by him in 2008 and last year. Prosecutors had cited this as circumstantial evidence showing a close relationship between Han and Kwak.

In response, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it will appeal the ruling, saying, “Kwak confessed that he bribed Han in court as well as to prosecutors. It is unacceptable that the court ignored his testimony for no good reason.”

Han said shortly after the trial, “I appreciate the court for doing its best to dig for the truth. It was really tough and long. They tried to kill me again but I’ll never die.”

Because of the no guilty verdict, she is expected to run for Seoul mayor in the June 2 local elections. She will, however, face trial again on the charge of taking illegal political funds.

The court also found Kwak guilty of embezzling 500,000 dollars of corporate funds while working at Korea Express and sentenced him to three years in prison. He was cleared, however, of bribing Han and embezzling 50,000 dollars out of 550,000 dollars.