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Roh Moo-hyun rejects extension of probe into "DPRK payoff scandal"

Xinhuanet 2003-06-23 14:36:50

ĦĦĦĦSEOUL, June 23 (Xinhuanet) -- South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday rejected a demand to extend the investigation into the payoff scandal involving a South Korean large enterprise, former government officials and Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

ĦĦĦĦThe request has been raised by Independent Counsel Song Doo-hwan, who is in charge of the probe, to make fresh allegations.

ĦĦĦĦRoh was quoted by the news agency Yonhap News as saying at a meeting with his senior secretaries in the Blue House, "Song's mission is almost complete...Therefore, it would be reasonable to deal with (the fresh allegations) separately from the independent counsel investigation."

ĦĦĦĦSong was appointed in March to investigate allegations that South Korean former President Kim Dae-jung's administration paid 500 million US dollars to the DPRK through the Hyundai Group to participate in the historic 2000 inter-Korean summit.

ĦĦĦĦThe then President Kim Dae-jung confessed in a public speech that the Hyundai Group has transmitted such sum of money to Pyongyang in order to promote inter-Korean economic exchanges, but denied it has relations with the 2002 summit meeting between him and DPRK top leader Kim Jong Il.

ĦĦĦĦSong Doo-hwan was given 70 days for the first stage of the probe with an option to ask the president to extend the investigating period. As the expiration of the initial 70-day period drew to an end, evidence came to light that former Culture Minister and Kim Dae-jung's Chief of Staff Park Jie-won took 15 billion won (12.6 million US dollars) of the sum from Hyundai around April 13, 2000.

ĦĦĦĦPark Jie-won was arrested last week on graft charges although he denied any wrongdoing.

ĦĦĦĦAfter the revelation, suspicions have snowballed that a major part of the 15 billion won went to politicians. Citing the need toclear up those suspicions, Song implored Roh Moo-hyun last Saturday to give him 30 more days of further investigation.

ĦĦĦĦRoh's rejection made Song's term to be ended on the coming Wednesday.

ĦĦĦĦ"Whether to name a new independent counsel depends on the National Assembly," Roh said. "I think it would be desirable to decide whether to have the prosecution undertake the probe after watching for a while how the National Assembly will decide."

ĦĦĦĦHe stressed, however, that the bribery scandal involving Park should be investigated thoroughly so that "it does not leave a dotof suspicion."

ĦĦĦĦBut the major opposition Grand National Party (GNP) strongly protested Roh's rejection, pledging an "all-out struggle" against the decision. The opposition party wants the allegations thoroughly investigated.

ĦĦĦĦThe ruling Millennium Democratic Party welcomed Roh's decision, saying it will contribute to helping advance inter-Korean relations. Enditem

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