Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - Page 5 News List

S Korea presidential aide offers to quit over scandal

AFP, Seoul

A senior aide to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak offered to resign on Friday amid allegations of involvement in a bribery scandal which has rocked the ruling party in an election year.

The offer by South Korean Senior Political Affairs Secretary Kim Hyo-Jae came one day after National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae stepped down over the affair, which is being investigated by prosecutors.

Park or his aides are alleged to have offered envelopes filled with cash to lawmakers of the conservative Grand National Party before a vote — which Park won — to select a new party chief in 2008.

Park, who quit the party post before becoming speaker in 2010, took responsibility for the affair, but did not admit personal wrongdoing.

Kim was an aide to Park at the time.

“I am sorry for causing concern to the public ... I will take all of my political responsibility,” a presidential spokesman quoted Kim as saying, according to Yonhap news agency.

Lee is widely expected to accept the resignation after his scheduled return yesterday from a trip to the Middle East, Yonhap said.

Since the affair was publicized early last month by a whistle-blowing legislator, Kim has denied any involvement in the alleged bribery.

The lawmaker said he received an envelope stuffed with 3 million won (US$2,685) from an aide to the speaker, which he returned.

The disclosure dealt a blow to the conservatives, already suffering from waning support.

The party holds 166 of the 299 parliamentary seats along with the presidency, but anticipates a struggle in the April general election and the presidential poll in December.

Recent surveys show the main opposition Democratic United Party is more popular than the ruling party amid growing discontent over social and economic inequality and an economic slowdown.

In a bid to shed their image as the party of the rich, the embattled conservatives have shifted policies leftward to focus on welfare for the poor.

The Grand National Party also changed its name to the Saenuri Party — a common rebranding tactic in South Korean politics. The party said on Thursday that its name in English would be the New Frontier Party.

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