(ATTN: UPDATES with referral, details throughout; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) referred an opposition lawmaker to the parliamentary ethics committee Tuesday for making groundless claims against its presidential nominee, Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, using a dubious photo of bundles of cash.
Lee also demanded Rep. Kim Yong-pan of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) apologize and give up his parliamentary seat to take responsibility for making the claims during an audit of the provincial government the previous day that the cash photo showed Lee took bribes from gangsters.
During the audit, Lee immediately rejected the allegations with a laugh.
Kim's accusations later lost credence, as the cash photo was found to be the same one a former gangster previously posted on Facebook to show off his own earnings.
"Rep. Kim Yong-pan used so-called parliamentary immunity to make false claims during the audit, but it was a clear violation of lawmakers' code of ethics, so our party officially filed a request for disciplinary action against him today," Rep. Kim Sung-whan, a senior DP official, told reporters after submitting the request.
The ethics committee is charged with deciding whether to take disciplinary action against lawmakers.
Kim defended himself during a parliamentary audit of the Seoul metropolitan government Tuesday.
"The truth is clear," he said. "Time will tell whether I colluded with gangsters or am unqualified."
Lee took to Facebook to demand Kim's resignation.
"I urge Rep. Kim Yong-pan to apologize for slandering me and voluntarily step down from his seat," he wrote.
The uproar over the photo has become an embarrassment for the PPP, which had vowed to use Monday's audit and another audit set for Wednesday to prove its suspicions that Lee is at the center of a massive development corruption scandal.
The governor has been accused of involvement in a corrupt scheme that awarded a little known company massive dividends from a land development project conducted in Seongnam in 2015 when he was the city's mayor.
Lee has denied any connection to the scandal.
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