A Seoul court on Friday cleared main opposition lawmaker Kim Sung-tae of bribery charges, clearing a hurdle for him to run in the upcoming April 15 general elections.
The Seoul Southern District Court found Rep. Kim Sung-tae of the Liberty Korea Party not guilty of receiving bribes from Lee Suk-chae, former chief of telecom firm KT. Lee was also cleared of offering bribes to Kim.
Based on testimony from former KT President Seo Yu-yeol, prosecutors indicted Lee for inappropriately asking Lee to hire his daughter as a permanent employee at the telecom giant in 2012. In return, Kim removed Lee from a list of witnesses at a parliamentary audit that year.
The lawmaker’s daughter was a temporary employee at a company affiliate in 2011 and was given a full-time position in 2012.
The court acknowledged that Kim’s daughter had received preferential treatment in the hiring process at KT and Kim had been aware of it. But it concluded there were no legal grounds to see the preferential treatment as bribes, according to the court’s ruling.
The court found Seo’s testimony not to be trustworthy.
The court’s ruling is likely to affect the ongoing trial of Lee, who was sentenced to one year in prison by the lowest court for obstruction of business for ordering his human resources team to hire 12 people with ties to high-profile figures.
Testimony by Seo was decisive for the court to find Lee guilty.
Kim, who had flatly denied the charges, slammed the prosecution as targeting him for political reasons.
“The prosecution tried to punish me through all means during the seven months of intensive investigation and the six months of the trial,” the lawmaker said. “But they will not be able to find reasons (to punish me) even if they appeal.”
The prosecution, which sought four years in prison for Kim, said it would decide whether to appeal after reviewing the verdict.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)