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Son of South Korean President Indicted on Corruption - 2002-06-05

South Korean prosecutors have indicted the son of President Kim Dae-jung on charges of influence peddling and tax evasion. The move is a blow to the South Korean leader, whose image has been damaged by this and other related corruption scandals.

Kim Hong-gul was formally charged Wednesday for taking nearly $3 million in bribes. He allegedly received funds from a businessman seeking government licenses to set up operations for the World Cup soccer games - currently underway in Japan and South Korea.

Mr. Kim is also accused of evading taxes the funds he received.

The 39-year-old has not commented directly on the allegations, though he has publicly apologized for any controversy he has caused.

Mr. Kim was arrested and detained in mid-May, days after returning to Seoul from the United States, where he has lived since 1998.

Andrew Pratt, a consultant with the Industrial Research and Consulting in Seoul, said while President Kim has not been accused of any wrongdoing, the case has hurt his reputation as a man elected on promises to reform corruption.

"Kim Dae-jung made a big statement that he was going to be different from the previous two presidents whose families have also become involved in financial troubles. He said he would be a clean president and that this would not happen during his term. Now it appears that all his children have become involved with scandals this of course is a great embarrassment to him," Mr. Pratt said.

The 77-year-old president resigned from the ruling party in May and apologized for the corruption scandals allegedly involving his sons and several associates. His departure from the Millennium Democratic Party preceded local elections to be held across the country next week.

Mr. Pratt said that opposition politicians will emphasize the scandal involving Kim Hong-gul ahead of the upcoming poll. "During election time, the opposition has played this [scandal] up, and perhaps with an eye on their possible future masters, the prosecution has been perhaps more willing to pursue these cases and come up with a result than they would have been during the previous couple of years," he said.

President Kim's five-year term ends in February and by law he cannot seek re-election in a presidential poll to be held in December.