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MB’s wife files suit over claims she used NIS cash

Jan 20,2018
The wife of former President Lee Myung-bak filed a defamation suit against two ruling party lawmakers on Friday after their accusations that she had purchased luxury fashion items with secret funds from the country’s main intelligence agency.

Kim Yoon-ok, former first lady, sent a petition to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office to investigate Reps. Park Hong-geun and Song Young-gil of the Democratic Party for slanders, Lee’s office said Friday. According to the press release, they defamed Kim by making false public accusations that Kim had used money from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to buy luxury goods.

On Thursday during the Democratic Party’s meeting, Park said the prosecution obtained a statement from Kim Hee-jung, who worked as Lee’s private affairs secretary, that he received 100 million won ($94,000) from the NIS, exchanged for dollars and gave it to Kim. Park said the money was then used to buy luxury goods.

In a radio interview on Friday, Park elaborated on the charge. Park said Kim’s associate had contacted him and informed him about Kim’s testimony at the prosecution. “Kim said he handed over 100 million from the NIS to the First Lady’s office, and about 30 to 40 million won was used to buy luxury goods when the first lady visited the United States in 2011 to accompany then President Lee,” Park said.

Song also made a similar accusation during a radio interview on Thursday, amid tension between Lee and President Moon Jae-in. Lee claimed that Moon is pursuing a vendetta over the death of his longtime friend and mentor, former President Roh Moo-hyun, by ordering the prosecution to conduct investigations into the affairs of his administration. Moon reacted by saying Lee had crossed a political red line by mentioning Roh’s death and insulted his administration by questioning the integrity of the Blue House and the prosecution.

Lee associates said the ruling party lawmakers are going after Kim in a payback for the Lee administration’s exposure of a corruption scandal involving another former first lady.

In 2009, former President Roh Moo-hyun was investigated by the prosecution on allegations that he and his relatives received massive bribes from Park Yeon-cha, chairman of Taekwang Industrial and also his longtime patron. On May 13, 2009, SBS reported that Kwon Yang-sook, Roh’s wife, had received a pair of expensive watches from Park but later threw them away at a rice paddy near Roh’s home in Bongha Village in South Gyeongsang. The report quickly turned Roh into a subject of public ridicule, and Roh committed suicide 10 days later on May 23, 2009.

Last year, the NIS investigated the case and announced that NIS officials at the time were behind the media report. They met Lee In-kyu, head of the central investigation union of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, and told him to make a leak about the watches to humiliate Roh, the NIS said. A close associate of the late president, Rhyu Si-min, said last year that the media report was wrong. “I heard directly from Roh,” he said. “Roh never told the prosecution that the watches were thrown away at a rice paddy. Roh belatedly learned that Kwon received them and vented his anger at her. He broke the watches with a hammer and threw them away.”

BY KIM JUN-YOUNG [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]