Disgraced members pressed to leave
The ruling Saenuri Party decided Friday to ask two members to leave the conservative party over an alleged money-for-candidacy scandal, in an apparent attempt to distance itself from the scandal ahead of the presidential election.
The scandal erupted as the National Election Commission requested the prosecution to look into the allegation Monday that Rep. Hyun Young-hee gave 300 million won ($265,000) to Hyun Ki-hwan, then a member of the party’s nomination committee, for a proportional representative seat ahead of April’s general elections.
The suspicions, if proven true, would deal a serious blow to the party and its leading presidential contender, Rep. Park Geun-hye, who served as the interim leader.
“We have decided to take necessary measures,” spokesman Kim Young-woo said, noting that his party would recommend the two scandal-ridden members to leave the party.
“We made the decision to help prosecutors carry out an investigation in a more thorough and swift manner.”
Proportional lawmakers are stripped of their National Assembly seat if they voluntarily withdraw their party membership. However, they can keep it when expelled from the party.
Meanwhile, the former election nomination committee member voluntarily appeared at the Busan District Prosecutors Office for questioning.
“I never received money or any other financial benefits in connection with the party’s nomination,” the former lawmaker said as he entered the prosecutors’ office in Busan. “The scandal seriously damaged my honor.”
Earlier in the day, Rep. Hyun said she would also appear before prosecutors over allegations she bribed party members in return for a lawmaker seat.
“I will cooperate with an investigation in good faith,” Rep. Hyun Young-hee said in a text message to reporters, stating she would turn herself over to prosecutors even during a parliamentary session.
She could face up to five years in prison or a maximum of 10 million won in fines if convicted of violating the election laws.
Both Hyuns have vehemently denied the allegations against them, calling the growing suspicions “totally groundless.”
Rep. Lee Hae-chan, the chairman of the main opposition Democratic United Party, called on Park to take full responsibility for the recent scandal. He said the cash-for-candidacy scandal reveals the chronic problem of his rival party.
“It wasn’t something surprising at all,” he said, noting that the Saenuri Party was embroiled in a massive bribery scandal in 2002.