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Senior presidential aide linked to corruption probe tenders resignation

Jun Byung-hun, senior presidential secretary for political affairs, tendered his resignation on Thursday, in the wake of a rare corruption investigation into an incumbent senior presidential aide. It is the first time for a presidential aide to resign under the Moon Jae-in administration that came into office in May.

The 59-year-old political affairs secretary is under the allegation of laundering a corporate donation of 300 million won in return for business favors, when he was sitting as the honorary chairman of Korea e-Sports Association. He denies all the allegations. 

Senior presidential aide Jun Byung-hun walks into the briefing room at Cheong Wa Dae to announce his resignation on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Senior presidential aide Jun Byung-hun walks into the briefing room at Cheong Wa Dae to announce his resignation on Thursday. (Yonhap)

“Today I told the president my intention to resign. I have done my best to aid the president and I feel deeply sorry that I caused trouble for him,” Jun told reporters in a press briefing.

His statement came a day after prosecutors said they will “inevitably” investigate Jun directly. The Seoul Court approved a warrant to arrest the secretary-general of the Korea e-Sports Association, only identified by his surname Cho on Wednesday, while three others, including two of Jun’s former aides, were arrested earlier in the week.

It has been alleged that it was Jun’s influence that prompted about 300 million won ($298,000) from Lotte Homeshopping, a cable shopping channel, to the Korea e-Sports Association in July 2015. At the time Jun was sitting as the honorary chairman of the organization, which he chaired from 2013 to 2014. The prosecutors believe that his aides, and possibly Jun, siphoned off 110 million won from the total amount.

Jun claimed that the laundering happened only by his former aides, and that he had no part in the allegations.

“I am sorry over the irregularities conducted by my secretaries in the past. I vow to you once again, that I was not involved in any unlawful acts and only worked to support the development of e-sports industry,” he said.

The prosecution claimed that the shopping channel intended the donation to lobby Jun to renew its broadcasting license. It viewed that it was irrelevant for a shopping television channel to donate money to a group fostering the computer game industry.

Jun had served three terms in the National Assembly and was the head of the parliamentary committee for broadcasting and communications at the time.

It is a rare occasion for the prosecution to target a presidential aide from an incumbent administration, and is raising concerns that it may pose as a factor to slow down the government’s anti-corruption reform drive.

By Jo He-rim (