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(LEAD) Presidential official says former Chosun Ilbo editorial writer lobbied for DSME official

All Headlines 17:02 August 30, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in para 5; RECASTS paras 8, 10-11)

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- A presidential official on Tuesday claimed a former chief editorial writer for the Chosun Ilbo, a local daily, lobbied the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae to help a senior executive of a local shipbuilder serve another term.

The official told Yonhap News Agency that Song Hee-young asked the presidential office last year to exert its influence over the personnel management of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. (DSME) to support the company's senior official.

"We told (Song) that it was not a matter for Cheong Wa Dae, and his demand was not accepted," the source said on the condition of anonymity.

The official's claim came a day after Song was dismissed from the editorial chief post over allegations that the DSME provided him with a luxury trip to Europe -- worth 200 million won (US$178,794) -- in 2011 in exchange for news coverage favorable to the shipbuilder.

Song resigned from the newspaper with the largest circulation in the country as details related to his alleged luxury trip started to emerge.

As for the rumors that Cheong Wa Dae covertly spread the allegations involving Song, the presidential official dismissed them as an attempt to "cover up the true nature of the scandal."

On Monday, Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party revealed the allegations. Kim said he was not tipped off by Cheong Wa Dae, police, the prosecution or the National Intelligence Service.

After Song's scandal came into the spotlight, some opposition politicians raised suspicions that Cheong Wa Dae might seek to exploit the scandal to divert public attention away from a corruption scandal involving Woo Byung-woo, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.

Woo is currently under investigation over charges of embezzlement and abuse of authority, which he has denied.

Last month, the Chosun Ilbo first raised allegations about a questionable 2011 real estate transaction between the family of Woo's wife and the online game-maker Nexon, which has been embroiled in high-profile corruption scandals.

Since then, the relationship between the presidential office and the daily has soured, with the newspaper publishing a series of articles on corruption allegations related to Woo.

Woo's corruption scandal has given rise to calls for his dismissal. But President Park Geun-hye has rejected them.

"There is no change at all (in Park's stance over whether to dismiss Woo)," presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk told reporters.

Meanwhile, state prosecutors are looking into Song to see if he violated any laws by accepting the expensive trip from the DSME, a source said. The nine-day trip in September 2011 took him to Italy, Greece and Britain.


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