Key figure in land development corruption scandal heads home from U.S. for probe

SEOUL-- A key figure at the center of an escalating land development corruption scandal was to arrive in South Korea this week for questioning over his suspected role in bribing influential figures in exchange for business favors.

Attorney Nam Wook left Los Angeles on Sunday and was to arrive in South Korea early Monday to face a probe by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office over allegations that he was involved in illegal lobbying over the course of the 2015 development project in Seongnam, south of Seoul, and reaped huge profits.

Nam told reporters at a Los Angeles airport on Sunday that he felt sorry and vowed to give "every detail" to the prosecution.

Nam had been in the U.S. since mid-September before the investigation into the case began, where private investors allegedly bribed government officials, legislators and other influential figures to secure the lucrative contract of developing Seongnam's Daejang-dong district into apartment complexes, and earned them massive profits.

Nam joined the city-run project as a private partner, and made about 100.7 billion won (US$84.14 million) through his company with a paid-in capital of 87.21 million won.

In a recent media interview, Nam denied involvement in irregularities, and instead put blame on two other figures, Kim Man-bae and Yoo Dong-gyu, who are currently under probe by the prosecution.

Kim, a former journalist and the largest shareholder of the previously little-known Hwacheon Daeyu Asset Management involved in the project, is being probed on charges of bribery, breach of trust and embezzlement. A court denied the prosecution's request for an arrest warrant for him last week.

Yoo, former acting chief of the city government-owned Seongnam Development Corp., was arrested earlier this month for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for business favors. The company holds a majority stake in the business.

The scandal has been the hottest issue in the country amid opposition accusations that Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung, who is now the ruling Democratic Party's candidate for next year's presidential election, is responsible as he was mayor of Seongnam at the time.

Yoo is known as a close associate of Lee.

Source: Yonhap News Agency