Prosecution begins probe on ex-ruling party lawmaker


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Allegations involving Rep. Sohn Hye-won will be dealt with according to the law if wrongdoings are found, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Tuesday as the prosecution began its investigation. 

Rep. Sohn Hye-won holds a press conference at the Natonal Assembly on Monday. Yonhap

Sohn allegedly engaged in real estate speculation in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, by purchasing or aiding the purchase of several properties in an area that was later designated as a cultural asset. It is alleged that Sohn used the names of relatives and an aide to hide her involvement in the transactions.

“As a number of questions have been raised, and a complaint has been filed, (the matter) will be dealt with according to the law if wrongdoings come to light,” Lee said at a meeting of officials from the ruling Democratic Party, the government and Cheong Wa Dae.

Lee went on to say that projects in the concerned area will be carried out as planned and the government will take steps to prevent real estate speculation in the area.

Lee’s comments came as the prosecution began investigation into the matter.

According to reports, the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office began investigating the allegations, following a criminal complaint filed by a nongovernmental organization.

Sohn denies all allegations, saying the transactions were part of her efforts to revive the city’s economy. She severed ties with the Democratic Party on Sunday and said she would give up her parliamentary seat if the allegations prove to be true.

Sohn has also stated that she will file a criminal complaint against SBS, the terrestrial broadcaster that first reported the allegations.

While a criminal investigation is underway, opposition parties are pushing for a parliamentary investigation and the launch of an independent council probe into the allegations.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party has also hinted that the party may boycott National Assembly procedures in February if the demands are not met. It plans to file additional criminal complaints against Sohn.

“A number of civic organizations have done so, but as there are additional allegations, (the party) will submit a complaint,” Liberty Korea Party floor leader Rep. Na Kyung-won said at a party meeting Tuesday.

Na claimed that allegations against Sohn could be in violation of a wide range of laws, including the Constitution, and regulations concerning civil servants, elected officials’ ethics, real estate transactions and anti-corruption laws.

In addition to alleged real estate speculation, it has been revealed that Sohn met with Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Pi Woo-jin before her late father was recognized as a patriot, after six failed attempts between 1982 and 2007.

Sohn’s father had taken part in the independence movement during Japan’s occupation of Korea, but applications to be recognized as an activist were rejected due to his connection to the communist party after the 1945 liberation.

The ministry denies any connection between the meeting and Sohn’s father being recognized as an independent activist, saying that Pi only advised the lawmaker to reapply as the related regulations were being changed. The changes took effect in April, and Sohn’s father received posthumous recognition in August.

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


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