Top Seoul politicians offer to resign over bribe claims

Korean upheaval: Corruption scandal shakes government in South, as defector leaves North reeling

Seoul - South Korea's Prime Minister and its governing party chairman said yesterday they were ready to resign to take moral responsibility for a bribes-for-loans scandal.

"I believe the Prime Minister must take responsibility," Prime Minister Lee Soo Sung was quoted by his spokesman as telling a Cabinet meeting. "I have no intention to cling to my post."

Ahn Kwan Ki, Mr Lee's spokesman, said the Prime Minister held himself morally responsible, although he was not directly involved in the scandal, which centres on a bankrupt steel company.

Lee Hong Koo, chairman of the ruling New Korea Party, also told President Kim Young Sam that he was ready to resign, party officials said yesterday. Mr Lee had been seeking his party's nomination to run for president in an election scheduled for December.

It remained uncertain whether the President would accept the two leaders' offer to quit, officials said.

The offers came shortly after prosecutors called in two close aides to President Kim for questioning about alleged involvement in the scandal. Before he appeared for questioning, the Home Minister, Kim Woo Suk, also offered to resign.

Also questioned yesterday was Hwang Byong Tae, a former ambassador to China and now a ruling party MP. Kwon Ro Gap, a close confidant of opposition presidential hopeful Kim Dae Jung, was another politician questioned yesterday.

Two bank heads and two government MPs, including an aide to President Kim, have already been arrested on charges of taking bribes or peddling influence for loans to bankrupt Hanbo Steel Industry Co.

Hanbo Steel, a flagship company of the Hanbo group, South Korea's 14th largest conglomerate, collapsed on 23 January with $6bn debt, mostly in bank loans. Three other Hanbo subsidiaries also went under.

The Home Minister headed the Construction Ministry in 1993-1994, when Hanbo obtained a government permit to build a steel plant on reclaimed land. Mr Hwang was ambassador to China in 1993-1995, when Hanbo was looking into investments in steel and construction projects there. He heads the National Assembly's Finance Committee.

Mr Kwon, a vice president of the largest opposition party, the National Congress for New Politics, had earlier admitted receiving $180,000 from Hanbo but claimed it was a legitimate political contribution.

He also admitted later that he had received $116,000 from Hanbo through a government MP who was arrested on Tuesday on charges of taking an equal amount of cash in bribes from the steel company.

The developments were the latest in the 18-day government investigation into the scandal, which has become a major embarrassment for President Kim and his government.

Mr Dae-jung said he has evidence that the President received illegal political funds from Hanbo for his 1992 election campaign, which eventually laid the foundation for the preferential government bank loans to the steel company. The President did not respond to the accusation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss