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Jeju governor under probe for alleged violation of election law, bribery

Police are investigating Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong over allegations of bribery and elections law violations.

The Seogwipo Police Station on Jeju Island questioned Won for over three hours on Thursday, focusing on allegations that he had violated the election law by asking for support at a gathering of about 150 people in Seogwipo before registering as a preliminary candidate in May.

The Jeju arm of the ruling Democratic Party filed a complaint against Won, an independent, accusing him of speaking about campaign pledges and appealing for support for about 15 minutes during a speech at a gathering of fellow alumni, teachers and officials with agricultural cooperatives.

Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong (Yonhap)
Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong (Yonhap)

According to the police, Won said: “Let’s join forces this summer and go together.”

Police questioned Won on the intentions behind the remark to find out if he had intended it as an appeal for voters’ support. Police are also trying to determine the nature of the gathering.

In response to a reporter who had asked whether he agreed with the allegations, Won said: “It seems inappropriate for me to talk about the details of the investigation. I replied in earnest, based on facts.”

Won is scheduled for another round of questioning at the Jeju Police Agency after his work hours Friday. The interrogation will concern a bribery allegation and three alleged violations of the election law.

Moon Dae-rim of the ruling party, who ran against Won for the governor post, accused Won of receiving a VIP membership for housing inside a premium golf course after taking office in August 2014.

During the gubernatorial election campaign earlier this year, Moon said a group of wealthy residents of a property on the grounds of the island’s top golf course had given Won a VIP membership.

Won held a press conference in which he denied the claim, saying he had never possessed or used a VIP membership.

Should the bribery allegations be shown to be true, Won’s press conference could be regarded as another alleged violation of the election law -- disseminating false information.

Won is already suspected of disseminating false information for saying, in a May 16 radio interview while he was still a preliminary candidate, that his rival and his predecessor as Jeju governor may have been involved in reckless development projects on Jeju Island and in Chinese investments in Jeju property.

A complaint was also filed against Won alleging premature campaigning after he spoke to students at Jeju Tourism University on May 24 about his plans as governor to create jobs for young people.

By Kim So-hyun (