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2013 probe into ex-vice justice minister slipshod: panel

An independent panel under the Ministry of Justice concluded Wednesday that the prosecution abused its power and intentionally conducted a slipshod investigation into former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui in his favor in 2013.

Kim Hak-eui (Yonhap)
Kim Hak-eui (Yonhap)

Announcing the result of its review of findings by a fact-finding team of the Supreme Prosecutors Office into the 2013 probe, the panel, tasked with looking into controversial cases in the past, called on the prosecution to thoroughly investigate three former prosecutors involved in the sex bribery scandal.

Kim, who retired from public service in March 2013, is under investigation over allegations of rape, abuse of power, and receiving sexual bribery. He is accused of having received sexual services in return for business favors at an orgy hosted by a contractor named Yoon Jung-cheon.

Prosecutors have twice investigated the allegations surrounding Kim -- in 2013 and 2014. However, no charges were filed on either occasion, triggering suspicions that someone powerful had pulled strings to protect him.

Prosecutors in charge of the case at the time limited their focus to sex crimes Kim had committed when there were other suspicions of sexual bribery. They focused on denying rape victims’ testimony, which helped clear Kim of rape charges and cover up the case, the panel said.

They also poorly investigated Yoon, who had close ties with several high-ranking officials from the prosecution, for his alleged personal irregularities to protect their own, according to the panel.

The panel also said there is a possibility that some who claimed to have been raped by Kim could have been raped, and called for a thorough investigation into the allegations. It added there could be additional videos taken at the Wonju villa where the orgy took place.

The sex bribery scandal surfaced after a video was revealed in 2013 showing a sex party involving several men and women at Yoon’s villa in Wonju, Gangwon Province, sometime in 2006 or 2007. One of the men in the video is believed to be Kim.

Amid public calls for reinvestigation of the case, Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il in March ordered the prosecution to reopen the Kim Hak-eui case.

The panel recommended the prosecution thoroughly investigate the high-profile bribery scandal and support the creation of an independent body aimed at probing corruption involving high-ranking government officials.