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Allegations dog nominees

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Published : 2013-02-19 21:00
Updated : 2013-02-19 21:00

Allegations of misdeeds have been brought against nominees for some of the most powerful positions, rekindling criticism of President-elect Park Geun-hye’s personnel selection method.

From the latest batch of nominees revealed Sunday and Monday, finance minister nominee Hyun Oh-seok has been accused of tax evasion.

According to reports, the Korea Development Institute chief transferred the ownership of a residential property in southern Seoul to his daughter in 2005, which he purchased in the late 1980s.

While gift tax was paid, Hyun is thought to have reduced the taxable amount by taking out a large loan secured against the property shortly before transferring ownership to his daughter.

The main opposition Democratic United Party has also raised concerns about Hyun’s actions during the savings banks crisis of 2011, when a large number of savings banks were suspended. At the time a number of account holders with large deposits were found to have withdrawn funds before the closures, raising suspicions that insider information was provided to major clients.

“When the government was busy trying to prevent a bank run for savings banks, KDI president Hyun withdrew all 200 million won,” DUP’s Rep. Lee Un-ju said on Monday.

Hyun’s financial records show that he and his wife held a total of 200 million won in Solomon Savings Bank and its subsidiary for Gyeonggi Province in four separate accounts at the end of 2010. All four accounts, however, stood empty by the end of the following year.

Hyun, however, disputed the allegations saying that funds in two of the accounts were withdrawn in April and October of 2010 as they had reached maturity, and that the third account’s deposits were taken out in July that year.

While no allegation has been brought against chief of staff appointee Huh Tae-yeol’s links to the so-called Park Yeon-cha-gate appears likely to flare up again.

The Park Yeon-cha-gate refers to the case surrounding Sejong Securities takeover deal between Taekwang Industry Co. chairman Park Yeon-cha and Sejong Capital CEO Kim Ki-ok between 2005 and 2006. In the process, Park Yeon-cha bribed a large number of influential figures including politicians.

Park Yeon-cha was sentenced to a 2-year-and-six-month prison term in 2010.

During the investigation, conducted between 2008 and 2009, Huh was suspected of taking illegal political funding from Park Yeon-cha.

Huh denied the allegations and no charges were brought against him.

However, Park Yeon-cha testified that he gave Huh 20 million won during the trial of former lawmaker Seo Gap-won of the defunct Democratic Party.

At the time the Taekwang Industry Co. chairman said that he not only gave Huh the money, but also received a message of thanks through a third party.

While not accused of any wrongdoing, the suitability of Kim Jeong-hoon as a government minister has also been brought into question. The science minister nominee is currently the president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs and Corporate Strategy.

According to Rep. Lee Seok-ki of the far-left Unified Progressive Party, Kim is “deeply involved with the (U.S.) Central Intelligence Agency” citing his involvement in the CIA-funded investment firm In-Q-Tel.

“It is questionable whether Kim, who has worked for the CIA and a U.S. military-industrial entity is qualified for the role of nurturing Korea’s cutting-edge technologies and overseeing core national assets,” Lee said.

The allegations against Hyun and Huh, however, are only the latest to be brought against the president-elect’s nominations.

From the six ministerial nominees announced last week, the DUP has already called for the resignation or withdrawal of the defense and justice ministerial candidates.

Defense Minister-nominee Kim Byung-kwan has been accused of tax evasion and burying reports of corruption while serving as the commander of an army division.

The defense minister-nominee is also alleged to have falsely changed his registered address, and influenced Defense Ministry subcontracts with two companies for which his eldest son worked. They won large contracts from the ministry.

In addition, financial investments made by Kim Byung-kwan has come under scrutiny. The documents submitted to the National Assembly for the confirmation hearing showed that his wife holds 1,000 shares in a military battery supplier.

Park’s nominee for the top Ministry of Justice post, Hwang Kyo-ahn, is accused of dodging mandatory military service. Records show that Hwang postponed the physical examination for military service three times, and was later exempted from service due to a skin condition.

Hwang is also alleged to have engaged in real estate speculation, and conducting a biased investigation into corrupt public prosecutors.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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