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(2nd LD) FSS chief offers to resign after election watchdog finds past political donation unlawful

All Headlines 21:59 April 16, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with reactions from parties; ADDS details)

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- Financial Supervisory Service Gov. Kim Ki-sik offered to resign Monday after the country's election watchdog concluded that the former legislator breached the law in 2016 when he donated money to a lawmakers' association led by him.

Kim has been widely expected to step down following the National Election Commission's decision, as President Moon Jae-in had pledged to sack him if any illegality was found in his past acts, including the so-called "self donation" and overseas trips Kim took with money from institutions under the oversight of his parliamentary committee.

Kim said through the FSS that he expressed his intention to resign right after the NEC's decision.

President Moon Jae-in plans to accept the resignation, a Cheong Wa Dae official said.

(2nd LD) FSS chief offers to resign after election watchdog finds past political donation unlawful - 1

Kim donated 50 million won (US$46,566) to the association of Democratic Party lawmakers, named "The Better Future," in May 2016 right before his term as a lawmaker ended. Critics have charged that the money was part of Kim's leftover political funds and he should have returned it to state coffers.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party has claimed that Kim went ahead with the controversial donation even after the election watchdog warned in response to his own query that it would be violating the election law if a lawmaker donated money to a non-profit organization as its member.

Kim has also been under pressure to resign following revelations that three overseas trips he made as a lawmaker in 2014 and 2015 were funded by financial and research institutions under the oversight of his parliamentary financial committee.

The election watchdog said that such trips could be problematic as they could amount to accepting political funds but that they should be looked into individually and in detail to determine whether they are in violation of the law.

Kim's resignation came two weeks after he assumed office, making his term as FSS governor the shortest in the agency's 19-year history.

The exit of Kim, a former civic activist who led the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, one of South Korea's leading civic groups, is expected to deal a blow to the administration of President Moon.

Kim has apologized for the controversy but insists that no favors were given to the institutions that paid for the trips. The LKP and the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party filed a complaint with the prosecution claiming that the trips amount to bribes.

At first, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae sought to defend Kim, saying the trips might appear inappropriate but were "legitimate." As public criticism snowballed, President Moon said Friday he would sack Kim if any illegality was found in Kim's past acts.

The main opposition LKP called for a thorough investigation of Kim.

"(Kim) should undergo a strict investigation according to the law," Rep. Jun Hee-kyung, a party spokesperson, said, adding that Kim knowingly committed the wrongdoing, as he was aware from the election watchdog that the controversial donation would be against the law.

Jun also called for the sacking of Cho Kuk, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, for failing to properly vet Kim before his appointment.

The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party urged President Moon to apologize.

"Cheong Wa Dae should be thoroughly held accountable for causing confusion in state affairs," party spokesman Kwon Sung-joo said. "Senior civil affairs secretary Cho Kuk, who caused the personnel fiasco, should step down and President Moon Jae-in ... should apologize."

The minor opposition Party for Demcoratic and Peace said Kim's resignation is a "matter of course."

Rep. Choi Gyung-hwan, a party spokesman, also urged Cho to resign.

"The civil affairs line in Cheong Wa Dae should take responsibility, as it determined there was no problem at all with Kim's appointment," Choi said.

The ruling Democratic Party said it respects the election watchdog's decision.

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