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Lawmakers take aim at presidential frontrunners at audits

Cheong Wa Dae ‘seriously thinking and watching’ Daejang-dong allegations

Park Beom-kye, Minister of Justice (Yonhap)
Park Beom-kye, Minister of Justice (Yonhap)
Two presidential front-runners embroiled in political controversies came under fire at Tuesday’s parliamentary audits from ruling and opposition lawmakers alike.

Lawmakers denounced Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party of Korea and former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, the leading People Power Party hopeful, over allegations of preferential development in the Daejang-dong neighborhood of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, and abuse of authority in last year’s general election, mentioning their names multiple times during audits on the ministries of justice, agriculture, land and industry.

Lawmakers from the main opposition People Power Party called for a thorough investigation into a controversial development project in Daejang-dong, which took place when Lee was mayor of Seongnam. They said Lee was the final approving authority of the project, revealing documents to prove his involvement.

Rep. Kim Hee-gon of the People Power Party said, “The whole nation is asking who is responsible for Hwacheon Daeyu. The question is directed at Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung.

”Lee should appear as a witness to reveal the substance of Daejang-dong-gate and hold himself accountable as a public official.“

Hwacheon Daeyu is a dubious company that participated in the preferred consortium for the Daejang-dong housing site development project with a 1 percent stake. A former reporter, who interviewed Lee before the project started, founded the firm a week before private-sector tender for participation in the project began.

Rep. Cho Soo-jin, of the same party, said, “The investigation of the prosecution, police and high-ranking government officials is ongoing, but some say it will end with a whimper.”

The Legislation and Judiciary Committee complained to Justice Minister Park Beom-kye that the prosecution’s investigation into Lee was poor. Rep. Yoo Sang-beom stressed the need for an investigation into Gov. Lee over breach of trust. In response, Park said, “Trust the prosecution. We will investigate fairly without bias.”

Regarding the allegations around Daejang-dong, a senior official from Cheong Wa Dae told reporters Tuesday it was “seriously thinking and watching.” This is the first time that the Blue House has taken a position on the suspicions around Daejang-dong. He declined to comment further.

During audits, the Democratic Party raised suspicions of Yoon’s involvement in filing a complaint with the prosecution against politicians and journalists linked to the ruling party ahead of last year’s general elections.

Rep. Kim Young-bae of the Democratic Party said, “It is a reasonable inference that the political scandal was an attempt to interfere in the election under the direction of Yoon Seok-youl, now a candidate of the People Power Party.”

Over the allegation, Minister Park Bum-gye said, “There is a possibility that important functions will be undermined concerning the basic framework of the state.”

Some parliamentary inspections were suspended or failed to start due to a clash between the ruling and opposition parties, as opposition lawmakers staged protests to demand investigations into the Daejang-dong projects.

The parliamentary inspection of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was deferred as members from the ruling party were absent. They did not attend in protest of opposition lawmakers who posted table signs demanding a special prosecution of Daejang-dong.

The audit of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy was suspended after 20 minutes due to a conflict between the ruling and opposition parties over the Daejang-dong controversy.

During the parliamentary inspection of the Fair Trade Commission, the ruling and opposition parties also clashed over witnesses related to presidential candidates.

Opposition party secretary Kim Hee-gon said, “If Gov. Lee is finalized as a Democratic Party presidential candidate on Oct. 10, he is likely to resign from his post.”

Kim demanded that candidate Lee be present as a witness at the audits for the public administration and security committee and land infrastructure and transport committee slated for Oct. 18 and Oct. 20.

Even after the meeting continued in the afternoon, the conflict was not resolved. In the process, ruling and opposition lawmakers shouted at each other. As the opposition party did not remove their pickets, protests from the ruling party erupted.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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