PPP leader urges ambassador in Australia to return amid corruption probe

Han Dong-hoon, the interim leader of the ruling People Power Party (PPP), speaks during a party meeting for the April elections at its party headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Sunday. Yonhap

Han Dong-hoon, the interim leader of the ruling People Power Party (PPP), speaks during a party meeting for the April elections at its party headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Sunday. Yonhap

Ruling party leader Han Dong-hoon urged law enforcement Sunday to summon the ambassador to Australia home amid the ongoing investigation into his alleged interference in a military probe into the death of a Marine.

Han Dong-hoon, the interim leader of the ruling People Power Party, made the remarks as criticism is growing over the controversial departure of Ambassador Lee Jong-sup to the host country last week despite him being a subject in the investigation.

“The Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials has to subpoena (Lee) immediately and the ambassador has to return immediately,” Han told reporters at the party’s headquarters in western Seoul.

“I don’t think it’s an issue over which we should engage in political bickering ahead of the elections and cause distress to the people.”

Lee, a former defense minister, is suspected of exerting undue influence in the Marines’ internal probe into the death of Cpl. Chae Su-geun, who died last July during a search mission amid heavy rains.

Critics say that Lee’s appointment and letting him leave the country to take up the top envoy post amount to helping a suspect flee overseas.

The issue is increasingly drawing attention weeks before the April general elections.

Han also suggested that Whang Sang-moo, senior presidential secretary for civil and social agenda, should step down over intimidating remarks he made to reporters last week.

The public broadcaster MBC reported Thursday that Whang, a former KBS news anchor, brought up during lunch with some reporters a 1988 stabbing case of a journalist by soldiers of the military intelligence command.

Recalling that the journalist was stabbed twice in the thigh in the attack for writing a column criticizing the military at the time, Whang told the MBC reporters to “listen carefully,” in what may seem to be an apparent warning to the media against running anti-government stories.

“It was a remark that does not measure up to the public’s expectations, and the secretary must decide on his next course of action,” Han said.

MBC reported that Whang also raised suspicions about the civilians-led 1980 democracy uprising in the southern city of Gwangju, alluding to the possible involvement of some professionally trained groups, including from North Korea, besides the ordinary citizens who took part in the revolt.

During the nine-day revolt in May 1980, the military junta, led by late former President Chun Doo-hwan, ruthlessly cracked down on civilians. Official data put the death toll at over 200 and thousands wounded, but critics argue that as many as 2,000 people were killed.

The suspected involvement of North Korea in the Gwangju incident is an oft-cited claim by hard-line conservatives in South Korean politics. (Yonhap)

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