Wednesday, June 15, 2011

National University

Im Sang-gyu
Im Sang-gyu, 62, president of Sunchon National University and former agriculture minister, was found dead yesterday in his car, which was parked near a mountain in Suncheon, South Jeolla.

Im was under investigation for his alleged involvement in two current scandals: the Busan Savings Bank collapse and an influence-peddling scandal centered on bribes paid to politicians and police by the owner of a company that runs canteens on construction sites. The nation's former head of police was indicted in the latter scandal.

Im's cousin found him at around 8 am yesterday and reported it to police. Burnt coal briquettes were found inside his car, police said, which they assumed Im used to asphyxiate himself.

They also found a suicide note that read: "I have been totally exhausted by everything. I think I have been trapped by evil. Everything was caused by meetings with people that I cared about. But the result of those meetings is so devastating.There was no monetary transaction. I hope everyone will forget about this dirty case by [my suicide]. "

The cousin told the police yesterday, "After he left the house at around 8:00 pm [Sunday], leaving a note saying, 'I'm going to my family grave site,' he didn't come home. So I went to the grave site and found him dead. "

Prosecutors said Im was suspected of receiving 20 million won ($ 18,407) from businessman Yu Sang-bong in exchange for contacting government officials who could grant Yu the rights to operate canteens at construction sites in 2008, when Im was minister for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

Yu also transferred 150 million won into a bank account that was under the name of Im's younger brother, prosecutors said, in 2005 and 2007. Prosecutors haven't discovered the reasons for the transfers. Yu was arrested last December on charges of bribing and lobbying high-ranking government officials.

Im said he borrowed money from Yu but it was for purchasing an apartment, prosecutors said, not for lobbying for the canteen business.

Prosecutors said Im also withdrew 50 million won from his savings account at Busan Savings Bank at the end of January, just weeks before the bank was closed down on Feb.17. The savings account was supposed to mature in October, prosecutors said. Im could have been given advance, inside information about the bank's imminent closure.

The bank's president, Park Yeon-ho, attended the same high school as Im, Gwangju Jeil High School, and Park's daughter married Im's son. Last October, Park donated 10 million won to Sunchon National University, while Im was its president.

Prosecutors slapped an overseas travel ban on Im on June 3.

After graduating from Seoul National University's public administration college in 1974, Im passed the civil service exam in 1975. He served as the budget managing officer at the ministry of planning and budget in 2002-2004 and vice minister of science and technology in 2004. He was named president of Sunchon National University in July 2010.

Im's friends told the media that he had been feeling pressure since prosecutors started investigating him.

Surprised by such a high-profile suicide - the first since that of ex-president Roh Moo-hyun in 2009 - the central investigation unit of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office investigating the Busan Savings Bank scandal said they had questioned Im only once for two hours .

"After questioning Im on June 3 for two hours as a witness, we haven't planned to summon him again," an official at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office said.

The Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors' Office, which is investigating the canteen scandal, said they have launched an investigation into Im but haven't summoned him for questioning.

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