South Korean MP embroiled in scandal commits suicide

Journalists gather as police inspectors stand next to a tent set up at the spot where Roh Hoe-chan, a three-term lawmaker who was being probed over a bribery scandal, was found dead, on July 23, 2018.
Journalists gather as police inspectors stand next to a tent set up at the spot where Roh Hoe-chan, a three-term lawmaker who was being probed over a bribery scandal, was found dead, on July 23, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
Roh Hoe-chan arriving at Seoul’s Incheon international airport. He admitted that he had received money from a powerful political blogger in a suicide note left in an apartment.
Roh Hoe-chan arriving at Seoul’s Incheon international airport. He admitted that he had received money from a powerful political blogger in a suicide note left in an apartment. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL • A prominent South Korean lawmaker who was being investigated over a bribery scandal has committed suicide, police said yesterday.

Mr Roh Hoe-chan, a three-term lawmaker of the left-leaning Justice Party, had been under investigation for allegedly receiving 50 million won (S$61,000) from a powerful political blogger linked to many top politicians.

The blogger, popularly known by his online nickname "Druking", is on trial for using illegal hacking programmes to sway public opinion on Naver, South Korea's top online portal.

"Druking" is accused of artificially raising the number of positive responses - the equivalent of Facebook's "Likes" - to tens of thousands of online comments on Naver that attacked or supported politicians or political parties in a bid to win personal favours.

In a note left in a Seoul apartment, Mr Roh admitted getting money from the blogger, but denied offering any favour in return, the Yonhap news agency said.

He had been expected to be summoned soon by prosecutors for questioning.

Police said Mr Roh was found dead at the gate of the apartment building and that it appeared he had jumped to his death.

Mr Roh was a prominent labour rights activist before becoming a lawmaker in 2004.

The South's presidential Blue House offered condolences over the "heartbreaking event".

"I express my deepest condolences over his death," said Mr Huh Ik-bum, a senior prosecutor leading the probe over the scandal. "I personally admired him as a politician," he said.

South Korea has one of the world's highest suicide rates, and suicides of public figures - from politicians to businessmen - embroiled in scandals are frequent.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2018, with the headline 'S. Korea MP embroiled in scandal commits suicide'. Print Edition | Subscribe