+ A

Gwangju mayor gave jobs to scammer’s kids

Dec 05,2018
A former mayor of Gwangju, who was swindled out of millions by a woman who pretended to be a former first lady, pulled strings to get jobs for the scammer’s children, police said on Monday.

The South Jeolla Provincial Police Agency booked former Gwangju Mayor Yoon Jang-hyun on charges of abusing his power to land jobs for a son and daughter of the scammer, identified only by her surname Kim, while he was mayor.

Kim, a 49 year-old cellphone saleswoman who is currently behind bars, pretended to be Kwon Yang-sook, the wife of former President Roh Moo-hyun, over the phone to Yoon.

The former mayor sent her a total of 450 million won ($406,568) in four transactions from December 2017 to January of this year, according to prosecutors.

The woman allegedly told Yoon that her own children were the offspring of former President Roh born out of wedlock, and asked the mayor to give them jobs.

Prosecutors believe that Kim may have promised Yoon political favors ahead of the local elections that took place in June.

Yoon allegedly used his power as mayor to land Kim’s son, 28, a job as a temporary employee at the Kimdaejung Convention Center, a publicly owned exhibition center in Gwangju, in March. He apparently worked there for seven months until he quit this October.

The mayor also put in a personal phone call to a private school in Gwangju that spring to request that its administrators hire Kim’s daughter, 30, as a teacher, police said. She was eventually picked for the job and still works there.

The police and the prosecution are also investigating the source of the money that Yoon gave to the woman. The total sum amounted to more than half of Yoon’s net worth of about 700 million won, according to a tax return he submitted in March.

While 350 of the 450 million won paid by Yoon was obtained through loans from two major banks, the other 100 million remains unaccounted for, according to police.

A civic group and a number of political analysts monitoring the case claim that the case should be investigated as political corruption, as Yoon had a shaky political standing since the beginning of his mayoral term.

Yoon was nominated and then elected as the New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s candidate for Gwangju mayor ahead of the local elections in 2014 with the support of Ahn Cheol-soo’s party faction.

The party split apart the following year, with Ahn leaving to form the People’s Party along with his faction members. Yoon stayed in the party, which changed its name to the Democratic Party (DP) and won back power under Moon Jae-in in the presidential elections last year.

Though he became a mayor belonging to the ruling party, Yoon’s low approval ratings in Gwangju and a lack of internal party support made his political position tenuous as the 2018 local elections rolled around. Prosecutors believe his desperation to build ties with influential figures linked to the ruling DP, like Kwon, may have led him to fall victim to the scam.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK, CHOI KYEONG-HO [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]