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(4th LD) Scandal-tainted lawmaker offers to resign from National Assembly

All News 15:39 October 02, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with exit ban on Kwak's son in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) -- Rep. Kwak Sang-do, an independent lawmaker who defected from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) a week ago, offered to resign from his parliamentary seat on Saturday amid mounting suspicions over his son receiving an unreasonably huge sum of severance pay from a firm at the center of a massive land development scandal.

"I can no longer work as a member of parliament amid widespread misunderstanding and distrust toward me," Kwak said in a news conference at the National Assembly.

"Everything regarding the nature of my son's severance pay and whether I was involved in the land development project (in Seongnam) and the relevant company will be revealed through investigations," he said, calling for a swift and thorough probe.

Independent lawmaker Kwak Sang-do announces his decision to step down from his parliamentary seat in a news conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 2, 2021. (Yonhap)

Kwak left the PPP last Sunday after media reports revealed that his son received 5 billion won ($4.24 million) after some seven years of work at Hwacheon Daeyu Asset Management, the company suspected of reaping huge gains from the land development project in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, launched in 2015 when Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, currently a presidential front-runner for the ruling Democratic Party (DP), was the city's major.

He previously said his son worked for Hwacheon Daeyu from June 2015 to March this year but was paid a monthly salary of a mere 2.5 million won.

Kwak, a prosecutor-turned-politician elected twice to the Assembly from a district in the southeastern city of Daegu, had also served as the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs during the presidency of Park Geun-hye.

According to the National Assembly Act, a majority vote is required in the plenary session to approve a lawmaker's resignation. The earliest plenary session is slated for Oct. 25.

Kwak's resignation offer came one day after a group of 51 lawmakers, mostly from the DP, submitted a motion to discipline him. A large number of PPP lawmakers have also stepped up pressure on him to resign, apparently out of concern about its negative impact on next March's presidential election.

PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok expressed gratitude and mixed emotions over Kwak's decision to resign in a social media message posted after his news conference.

The DP issued a statement calling for swift and thorough investigations into Kwak and his son's excessive severance pay.

Kwak and his son have been under prosecution and police investigations, as civic activists recently filed criminal complaints against them on suspicions of bribery.

In recent days, prosecutors and police have been speeding up their investigations into the Seongnam land development scandal amid allegations that Gov. Lee gave business favors to certain developers during his days as the city's mayor years ago.

In a related development, prosecutors from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office raided the home of Kwak's son, Kwak Byung-chae, on Friday, according to judicial officials.

Independent lawmaker Kwak Sang-do makes a deep bow before announcing his resignation in a news conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 2, 2021. (Yonhap)

Prosecutors reportedly seized the younger Kwak's mobile phones, car camera and other materials related to their investigations during the raid.

The officials said Rep. Kwak's home and his National Assembly office were not included in the raid, raising speculation that the court may have rejected the relevant search warrants.

Prosecutors are said to suspect that Rep. Kwak may have pocketed the huge sum through his son after playing a certain role in the Seongnam land development project during his days as a senior presidential secretary in the previous Park government.

The younger Kwak was reportedly paid 2.8 billion won after tax under the name of severance pay, incentives and industrial disaster compensation.

The son recently told media that he suffered health problems since 2018 due to overwork and was eventually paid some compensation and consolation money by his company. Hwacheon Daeyu has also confirmed his remarks as true.

Prosecutors plan to call in the younger Kwak as soon as they finish analyzing the seized materials.

The younger Kwak has also been banned from leaving the country, said the Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency, which has been conducting separate investigations into key figures in the land development scandal.

Earlier this week, the Gyeonggi police agency imposed an exit ban on the owner of Hwacheon Daeyu, Kim Man-bae, and seven other figures implicated in the scandal.


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