- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) - South Korean prosecutors have questioned the wife of former President Roh Moo-hyun on suspicion of accepting $1 million from a detained businessman at the center of a high-profile corruption scandal, an official said Sunday.

Prosecutors quizzed Kwon Yang-sook on Saturday to determine whether she received the money from Park Yeon-cha, head of a local shoe manufacturer, via a former presidential aide in 2007, according to prosecution spokesman Cho Eun-suk.

On Sunday, prosecutors also summoned Roh’s only son _ Roh Gun-ho _ to investigate whether he used some of the $1 million for living expenses in the United States, Cho said.

Roh Moo-hyun, who stepped down as president early last year, offered a public apology last week and admitted his “house” took money from Park. He also said he would cooperate in an investigation.

The admission was a blow for the ex-president, a former human rights lawyer and liberal politician who took office in 2003 as a reformist with a clean image.

South Korean media have reported that Park told investigators that he provided the money to Kwon at the former president’s request, and that he separately gave $5 million to help a relative of Roh Moo-hyun establish an investment firm in early 2008 in an unauthorized financial transaction.

Media reports said the junior Roh is a major shareholder in that investment firm and was allegedly involved in getting the $5 million from Park. The son returned to South Korea on Saturday night.

Yonhap news agency reported Sunday that Kwon told investigators that she used the $1 million to pay back debts. But Yonhap, citing no sources, said prosecutors believe the money was eventually conveyed to former President Roh.

Yonhap quoted senior prosecutor Hong Man-pyo as saying that prosecutors have not determined when to summon the former president.

Several of Roh Moon-hyun’s former aides and associates are also being investigated on suspicion of taking illicit money from Park, who has been detained since being indicted on separate bribery and tax evasion charges in December.

Roh Moo-hyun’s elder brother was indicted on bribery charges in December, accused of accepting money to help a securities firm sell assets to a state-supervised bank.

Corruption has been endemic in South Korean politics, with businessmen often giving money to presidential aides, associates and leading politicians in return for favors.

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