Former chief editorial writer of Chosun Ilbo barred from leaving country

August 31, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) — Prosecutors said Wednesday they have put an overseas travel ban on the former chief editorial writer of South Korea’s influential daily Chosun Ilbo over allegations he received bribes in return for writing favorable stories for an ailing shipbuilder.

The prosecution has barred Song Hee-young from leaving the country after suspicions arose that he lobbied the presidential office to help a former chief of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. serve another term.

Earlier this week, Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party said Song took a luxury business trip to Europe in September 2011 with the then-chief of the company Nam Sang-tae. The lawmaker said the travel expenses for Song — worth some 200 million won (US$178,000) — were paid by the shipyard.

The nine-day trip, which was designed to cover the financial meltdown in Greece, took him to world-renowned tourist sites in Italy, Greece and Britain, including Venice, Rome, Naples and Sorrento, according to Kim. The tour even involved a luxury yacht cruise, he said.

On Wednesday, an official at the presidential office, who asked not to be named, told Yonhap News Agency that Song asked the presidential office to exert its influence over the shipbuilder last year so Nam’s successor, Ko Jae-ho, could stay on as CEO. The official said the demand was not accepted.

Ko, who headed the company from 2012, was replaced by the current chief last year and is currently behind bars over his alleged involvement in the company’s accounting fraud.

Nam, who ran the shipyard from 2006 to 2012, was also indicted in July and has been in detention since late June on charges of bribery.

Prosecutors are known to be looking into Song’s phone call logs to verify if he actually tried to lobby the presidential office.

He resigned from the newspaper with the largest circulation in the country on Tuesday as the allegations came into the spotlight.