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Inspection bureau separated after golf claims

Dec 01,2018
Members of the Blue House’s special inspection bureau are to be replaced after they allegedly played a round of golf together during work hours, the Blue House said on Friday.

“We decided to send all members [of the bureau] back to their original agencies,” said Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, in a written statement on Friday. “The decision was reached because if some members are suspected of corrupt practices, the bureau cannot carry out its purposes. We hope the prosecution and police will investigate immediately and with accuracy.”

Cho did not confirm whether some members of the bureau played golf together during work hours. The allegation arose in recent media reports.

“That matter is subject to official investigation and I cannot provide any more details,” Cho said.

The special inspection bureau of the Blue House falls under the authority of the civil affairs secretary and consists of some 20 to 30 officials dispatched from the prosecution, police, Board of Audit and Inspection and the National Tax Service. Their role is to inspect the work of public companies and organizations that work with the Blue House to ensure no corrupt practices are in place.

“Cho asked the respective agencies to thoroughly investigate and take disciplinary actions against [those that are] guilty among the officials sent back to their original agencies,” said Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom on Thursday.

At least one member of the bureau, a prosecutor, faces an additional allegation for having asked a police officer for the details of an investigation regarding a friend who had allegedly bribed officials of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport last month. The prosecutor allegedly pretended the case concerned officials at the Blue House, when it did not, to gain access to the internal information.

The alleged incident was reported internally in the Blue House earlier this month and the prosecutor was dismissed from his position in the bureau. But it appears the Ministry of Justice has not taken disciplinary measures against the prosecutor.

“He is continuing his work as a prosecutor,” a prosecution official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Friday.

Blue House spokesman Kim told reporters on Thursday that the Blue House “has no power to take disciplinary action against the officials dispatched from agencies.”

Opposition lawmakers called for Cho’s resignation on Friday after the allegations emerged. “An official of the Blue House’s special inspection bureau is suspected to have dug into the internal information of a police investigation and it is said that the officials played golf together during work hours,” said Liberty Korea Party (LKP) floor leader Kim Sung-tae during a party meeting at the National Assembly on Friday. “Cho Kuk must resign to take responsibility.”

“The person responsible for the inspection bureau is Cho,” said LKP Rep. Kim Young-woo. “Cho is talking of replacing the members of the bureau but he should be talking about replacing himself.”

BY KIM YOUNG-MIN, WIE MOON-HEE AND YOON SUNG-MIN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]