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(LEAD) Opposition lawmaker arraigned in illegal hiring case

All News 11:10 July 04, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS Kweon's remarks in 3rd para; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court held a hearing on Wednesday to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant for a three-term lawmaker on charges that he pulled strings for people he knew to help them land jobs at a state-run casino operator.

The hearing on Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) began at 10:30 a.m. at the Seoul Central District Court. Prosecutors filed for a writ in May on charges of abuse of power, bribery and obstruction of business.

"Regardless of reasons, I deeply apologize for causing concern to the public," he told reporters. "I have said many times through media that I have nothing to do with (the scandal) ... I will explain myself clearly in the courtroom."

The court decision is expected to come late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Kweon, 58, is accused of pressuring Kangwon Land Inc. in late 2013 to hire his two former aides and some 16 others, including children of his high school friends.

He is also suspected of exerting power on trade ministry officials to have one of his friends named an outside director at the casino operator, located in Gangwon Province, to which Kweon's constituency belongs. Prosecutors suspect he, in return, helped the firm easily pass a government audit.

It took nearly two months for the court to arraign the prosecutor-turned-lawmaker as he was immune from detention while the National Assembly was in session and the parliament refused to vote on the motion regarding his arrest.

The case took a twist last week as Kweon offered to give up his privilege and show up for the arraignment.

The high-profile scandal has spawned a launch of an independent prosecution inquiry after a prosecutor who was probing the case made a revelation that the case was already compromised by the hands of ranking prosecutors and Kweon, chairman of the parliament's judiciary committee.

The independent probe team has been at odds with sitting Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il as it publicly accused him of blocking their investigation against the top prosecutors implicated in the case.

Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (C) of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party enters the Seoul Central District Court for a hearing on his arrest warrant on July 4, 2018. (Yonhap)


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