Top S. Korean prosecutor arrested on graft charges

Senior prosecutor Jin Kyung Joon mobbed by the media as he appeared before the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office last Thursday for questioning.
Senior prosecutor Jin Kyung Joon mobbed by the media as he appeared before the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office last Thursday for questioning.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SEOUL • A top South Korean prosecutor has been arrested on charges of taking millions of dollars in bribes from the owner of Nexon, a leading online game maker, in a case that the country's media has portrayed as the epitome of corruption among its elite.

The prosecutor, Jin Kyung Joon, a vice-ministerial-level official, is the most senior prosecutor ever arrested while in office in modern South Korean history.

The case has rocked the country for months, with public grievances running deep over growing income inequality and the way justice is pursued. The local media has reported it as the latest example of how some of the business and government elites promote one another's interests through collusive ties.

On Sunday, Justice Minister Kim Hyun Woong, who is in charge of prosecutors, apologised to the public, saying he was "embarrassed and despaired" over Jin's alleged "corruption and crime".

Prosecutors said Jin received 420 million won (S$498,000) from Nexon founder Kim Jung Ju in 2005 to buy unlisted Nexon Korea stock. The next year, they said, he sold the shares back to Nexon Korea for about US$880,000 (S$1.2 million).

He then bought stock in Nexon Japan, and netted a fortune after Nexon Japan went public in 2011, selling the stock for US$11 million last year, prosecutors said.

Jin is also accused of having received a luxury car from Nexon.

Investigators said on Sunday that they were also looking into an allegation that in return for hushing up a tax investigation against Korean Air, Jin had forced the airline to give a lucrative contract to a company run by his brother-in-law. Prosecutors have summoned Korean Air officials in the matter.

Jin first said in March that he had bought the original Nexon Korea shares with his own money. Then he said some of the money had come from his mother-in-law. He later changed the story again, saying the money was borrowed from Mr Kim Jung Ju and had been repaid.

Last week, Jin apologised for lying, but did not say whether the money he received from Mr Kim Jung Ju was a bribe.

The latter is the largest shareholder of NXC, which controls both Nexon Korea and Nexon Japan. He was once hailed as one of South Korea's richest young technology entrepreneurs.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'Top S. Korean prosecutor arrested on graft charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe