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Two top officials from previous governments to be quizzed over bribery, election-meddling allegations

All Headlines 09:21 December 05, 2017

SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- Two influential figures from the previous Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak governments will be questioned by prosecutors Tuesday over separate bribery and election-meddling allegations.

Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is set to appear for an interrogation at 10 a.m., according to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. It has also summoned Kim Tae-hyo, a Sungkyunkwan University professor who served as a senior secretary to Lee, for questioning at 10:30 a.m., the office said.

Choi, a four-term conservative lawmaker, is suspected of taking 100 million won (US$92,000) in bribes from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) when he was finance minister under Park's leadership in 2014.

Prosecutors believe the money was paid to lobby him for retaining the spy agency's off-book funds -- with which it allegedly paid Choi -- when then opposition parties pushed for scaling it down on the basis of the untraceable nature of the "NIS special activities fund."

Two former NIS chiefs have been arrested for arranging the illegal payments of at least 4 billion won from its coffers to then Park's two aides, who have also been arrested over bribery charges. Lee Byung-kee, one of the two arrested, apparently told the prosecution that he approved the NIS payment to Choi when he was the director in October 2014.

Separately, Kim, who served as the senior presidential secretary to Lee, is suspected of involvement with the military cyberwarfare command's operations to write Internet comments to sway public opinion in favor of then ruling party candidate Park, in the runup to the 2012 presidential election.

Park won the election against her opposition Moon Jae-in, though she was removed from office earlier this year due to a massive corruption scandal involving one of her longtime friends. Moon succeeded her by winning the presidential election in May.

Both Choi and Kim have denied any wrongdoing.

The investigation of Kim and other top presidential officials during the Lee administration is considered a step toward ultimately investigating the former president. Lee has recently categorically denied any knowledge or involvement in the military's alleged political interference.

Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is seen in this photo filed Nov. 24, 2017. (Yonhap)
Kim Tae-hyo, former senior presidential secretary to then-President Lee Myung-bak, is seen in this photo filed Nov. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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