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South Korea Paid North $100M to Agree to 2000 Summit

An independent counsel says former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's government gave North Korea $100 million to participate in a historic inter-Korean summit in June 2000. Two former cabinet members were indicted Wednesday for their role in the scandal.

The investigating lawyer said Wednesday that the government of former President Kim Dae-jung secretly paid North Korea $100 million to convince Pyongyang to hold a summit three years ago. That meeting, which was the first of its kind, helped Mr. Kim win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.

In a nationally televised news conference, investigator Song Doo-hwan did not describe the money as a payoff, but said it was "government aid which was related" to the summit. He said it was sent secretly through improper channels.

The money was funneled through the South Korean conglomerate Hyundai.

Mr. Song says Hyundai sent a total of $500 million to North Korea, but $400 million of that was a legitimate investment.

Mr. Song has indicted two former cabinet members, Park Jie-Won and Lim Dong-Won, on charges related to the payments to the communist North Korean government.

The summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is considered the centerpiece of President Kim Dae-jung's administration. Mr. Kim, who left office in February, earlier acknowledged that his government approved Hyundai's money transfers to Pyongyang, even though they were illegal, because they "facilitated peace on the Korean Peninsula."

Opposition lawmakers had pushed for the probe by the independent counsel, and Mr. Kim's successor, President Roh Moo-hyun approved it. However, Mr. Roh recently rejected the investigators' request to extend the probe.

North and South Korea remain technically at war since the Korean War ended in 1953 with no peace treaty. Relations on the peninsula improved after the summit, with the two sides launching a series of joint projects. Tensions mounted, however, last year, especially after Washington said in October that North Korea was secretly developing nuclear weapons.