+ A

Gyeonggi governor asks for gang allegations to be probed

July 26,2018
Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung asked the Justice Ministry to investigate allegations about his links to a gang in Seongnam, the city Lee previously ran as mayor.

“These allegations have surfaced since the local election campaign, but I have not really responded to them because I never colluded with a gang,” Lee said in a written statement which was read aloud by his press secretary Kim Nam-jun at a press conference in the provincial government building on Wednesday. “But the lies keep growing and I cannot ignore them. It is time to sort out the facts and I officially request the prosecution to investigate the allegations.”

Kim said Lee has not yet officially filed a complaint to the prosecution and is “reviewing” the option as of Wednesday afternoon.

Lee, who was Seongnam mayor for two terms from 2010 to March 2018, was elected Gyeonggi governor last month.

The allegations were raised in April in media reports and once again on Saturday in the SBS investigative TV program “We Want to Know.” The episode raised questions about ties between the city government of Seongnam and a gang called International Mafia while Lee was mayor.

According to the program, Komatrade, a company run by a former member of the gang, paid 8 million won ($7,115) to sponsor an event organized by Seongnam FC, the city’s football club, in May 2016. Then in October 2016, Komatrade’s president was recognized by the Seongnam city government as a notable small and medium sized enterprise CEO. Every year, the city government recognizes three presidents of small and medium sized enterprises in the city and awards them certain advantages such as local tax audit exemptions.

The program pointed out that Lee defended two people involved in a case concerning International Mafia in 2007.

“If prosecutors decide to investigate, I will submit to it and if any fault is found on my part, I will take responsibility,” Lee said in his statement Wednesday.

Lee’s announcement Wednesday was the second in the past week. On Saturday, he posted on his Facebook account a long message refuting the allegations, and he called the SBS program a scheme by his political rivals who want to “assassinate [his] character.”

Lee has also been embroiled in a romantic scandal. He is alleged to have had an affair with actress Kim Boo-sun from 2007 to 2009. On June 27 Lee filed false information complaints with the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office against the actress and Kim Young-hwan, his Bareunmirae Party rival in the June 13 gubernatorial race, who brought up the allegations.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]