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(2nd LD) Presidential official says former Chosun Ilbo editorial writer lobbied for DSME official

All Headlines 18:57 August 30, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 7-8, 11, 17-21)

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."

Touching on the lavish tour that Song allegedly enjoyed, the presidential official said that the allegations exposed "long-standing collusive ties" among former DSME CEO Nam Sang-tae; Park Soo-hwan, the head of the PR agency News Communications; and Song.

The trip in question was allegedly offered to Song through Park. Both Nam and Park have been detained on corruption charges.

On Monday, Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party revealed the allegations involving Song. 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.

A Cheong Wa Dae official, however, countered that the Chosun Ilbo had apparently called for Woo's dismissal to cover up its suspicious ties to the DSME amid a prosecutorial probe into corruption allegations surrounding the financially troubled shipbuilder.

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, which was designed to cover the financial meltdown in Greece, took him to world-renowned tourist sites in Italy, Greece and Britain, including Venice, Rome, Naples and Sorrento, according to Rep. Kim.

His tour even involved a luxury yacht cruise, which cost 22,000 euros ($US24,574) per day, Kim said.

Another allegation, raised by Kim, involved Song's wife.

In August 2009, Song's wife attended a christening ceremony for two ships, Norther Jasper and Northern Jubilee, both of which were built by the DSME.

Such a ceremony is usually attended by a wife or daughter of the owner of the ship, Kim said, further hinting at a close relationship between Song and the shipbuilder.


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