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Korean bribery scandal widens

PROSECUTORS said yesterday they were looking into fresh suspicions that a businessman gave hundreds of thousands of US dollars to the daughter of former South Korea President Roh Moo-hyun, in a widening bribery scandal that has embroiled the family.

Roh, president from 2003-2008, is accused of accepting US$6 million in bribes from a Seoul businessman while in office. Prosecutors questioned him last month, but he denied the allegations.

Roh has acknowledged his wife took US$1 million from Park Yeon-cha, head of a local shoe manufacturer, but suggested it was not a bribe. He also said he was aware that Park gave another US$5 million to a relative but thought it was merely an investment.

Yesterday, prosecution spokesman Cho Eun-sok said investigators have found that Park gave hundreds of thousands of US dollars to Roh's daughter in 2007.

Prosecutors questioned the daughter and her husband on Monday over the findings, Cho said.

The scandal is a major blow for Roh, a former human rights lawyer and liberal politician who took office in 2003 as a reformist with a clean image in a country that has struggled to move past a traditional culture of corruption.

Roh has apologized for the scandal, but it does not necessarily mean he acknowledged the claims as true.

Prosecutors have not decided yet whether or when to seek an arrest warrant for Roh, Cho said.

Several of Roh's former aides and associates have also been investigated on suspicion of taking illicit money from Park, who has been detained since being indicted last December on separate bribery and tax evasion charges.


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