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(LEAD) (News Focus) Lee's wife under fire over alleged use of public servants for personal errands

Politics 14:21 February 03, 2022

(ATTN: CORRECTS department of aide in 5th para)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- The wife of ruling party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung has come under fire over allegations aides to her husband ran her errands, including picking up packs of beef and getting drug prescriptions and leaving them at her door.

Kim Hye-kyung, the wife of the Democratic Party (DP) presidential nominee, issued an apology Wednesday, five days after SBS TV first reported the claims, saying she took full responsibility for what transpired as she should have drawn a line between personal and official business.

Lee Jae-myung (R), the presidential nominee of the ruling Democratic Party, poses with his wife, Kim Hye-kyung, during a Lunar New Year event in Andong, 268 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 1, 2022, in this photo provided by Lee's campaign. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Lee Jae-myung (R), the presidential nominee of the ruling Democratic Party, poses with his wife, Kim Hye-kyung, during a Lunar New Year event in Andong, 268 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 1, 2022, in this photo provided by Lee's campaign. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The revelation came only weeks ahead of the March 9 presidential election, a tight race in which her husband has been neck-and-neck with main opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the People Power Party (PPP) in recent polls.

Kim faced further criticism after KBS TV reported that an aide, who worked as a secretary for the Gyeonggi provincial government when Lee was the governor, was made to pay for Kim's purchase of beef using a personal credit card, only to cancel the transaction a day later and repeat the transaction with a company credit card.

The media reports have largely been based on text messages and phone calls exchanged between the aide and a higher-level official in an administrative department from April to November last year. The higher-level official, surnamed Bae, has been identified as the person who gave the orders.

Lee issued his own apology Thursday under mounting pressure. According to one report, the secretary had collected Lee's suit from the official governor's residence and discussed handling his laundry even after he had left office in October.

"As governor, I failed to thoroughly check for possible wrongful acts by my staff, and my wife failed to detect and stop in advance things that could be problematic," he said in a statement, calling for an inquiry into the use of the company card.

"If any problems are revealed, I will take responsibility in accordance with the rules," he said, adding that he and his family, and those around him, promise to think and act more prudently from now on.

The PPP has seized on the accusations after grappling for months with a similar controversy related to the alleged ethical lapses of Yoon's wife, Kim Keon-hee.

The party said it plans to report Lee, his wife and the public servant to the prosecution on charges of abuse of power, extortion and violation of the medical law.

Bae admitted Wednesday that she sent the secretary on errands, not at Kim's orders but out of her own desire to curry favor with the governor couple. Initially, she had denied her involvement and threatened to take action against those who spread false rumors.

The DP has come to Lee's defense, saying neither the candidate nor his wife were directly involved in the case.

"We have to determine the facts and the truth behind what transpired between (the two staff members)," Rep. Park Chan-dae, senior spokesman of the DP campaign committee, said in a CBS radio interview Thursday.

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)

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