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Opposition party downplays suspicion over candidate’s underreporting of wealth

Opposition party downplays suspicion over candidate’s underreporting of wealth

Posted July. 21, 2014 05:09,   


Kwon Eun-hee, candidate for Gwangju’s Gwangsan B district of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy in the July 30 by-election, is embroiled in suspicion that she underreported the value of her and her husband’s wealth by millions of dollars. It has been revealed that a realty trading company, whose 40 percent stake is held by her husband, possesses seven seven-story buildings (she reported three) in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. Another real estate trading company, whose 100 percent stake is owned by her husband, is found to own two office-residential units in Hwaseong New Town in Gyeonggi Province. The combined value of these property holdings is worth more than 3 billion won (2.9 million US dollars), but Kwon only reported 140 million won (136,000 dollars), the face value of the companies’ stock.

Kwon said, “I omitted them while hurriedly reporting wealth,” adding, however, “The rule required a candidate to report a candidate’s stockholdings in legal entities at their face value, and I reported in compliance with the rule. The civil servants’ ethics committee has never raised issue with this, when I was working at the National Police Agency.” Her claims that ‘there is no problem in light of legal procedures’ sounds as if she is trying to justify expedient reporting of her wealth.

While serving as the chief of the investigation division at Seoul’s Suseo Police Station, Kwon blew whistle, claiming that Kim Yong-pan, then the chief of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, pressured the investigation team to go ease during investigation of a case, in which National Intelligence Service staff were accused of uploading Internet posts critical of the then main opposition party candidate ahead of the 2012 presidential election. But trials at the lower court and appellate court found that her claims lack evidence and credibility. Recently, she was also accused of having forced a witness to make false testimony while she was practicing as lawyer in the past, and plagiarized in her dissertation for a master’s degree. As such, Co-chairmen Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Han-gil of NPAD who ‘strategically nominated’ Kwon have inevitably come under fire as well. Even party insiders criticize that the party granted ‘nomination to compensate’ someone who hampered the credibility and fame of a government agency and police as an organization, and made claims in favor of a certain political faction.

On nomination of Kwon, Shim Sang-jung, the floor leader of the minor opposition Justice Party, said on Sunday, “People could consider it moral hazard.” NPAD has harshly blasted the Park Geun-hye administration at confirmation hearings of prime minister and minister nominees in recent months by citing ethical standards living up to people’s expectations, but the party itself has failed to apply such standards on its own members.

Ahn Cheol-soo said on Sunday, “(The public) should give strong warning against the Park Geun-hye administration for its arrogance and self-righteousness (at the June 30 by-election and reelection), and lay the foundation to establish a new Republic of Korea.” If Ahn really means it, Co-chairmen Ahn and Kim themselves should frankly admit to making erroneous nomination and apologize for the mistake, rather than turning a blind eye to all diffident suspicions and problems surrounding Kwon.