Monday, May 24, 2010

Remembering The Koreagate Scandal

One reason around 28,000 U.S. troops are still in South Korea in 2010 is that the South Korean government has, historically, done a lot of lobbying in Washington on behalf of its special interests. In her early 1990s book, The Power House, Susan Trento recalled, for example, how the South Korean Establishment operated in Washington during the 1970s:

"Tongsun Park was no ordinary student when he first came to Georgetown. He was a trained Korean Central Intelligence Agency [KCIA] officer who had been assigned to infiltrate the American political scene as an `agent of influence.' More importantly, Park came from one of the most powerful families in Korea. They owned oil tankers, a huge rice business, and were politically well-connected.

"By the time The George Town Club was in full operation, Tongsun Park, backed by the KCIA, was the exclusive broker for American rice sold to the Korean government...At the height of his power, the congressional investigation that looked into his activities estimated Tongsun Park earned $11 million in one year in illegal rice commissions. In turn, Park used some of the money to bribe influential members of Congress and to pay the enormous costs of subsidizing The George Town Club...In addition, on behalf of the KCIA, Park lobbied for support for foreign and military aid to South Korea...

"The Koreagate scandal broke open in 1977...and five investigations were opened. Of the dozens of congressmen and senators who enjoyed Tongsun Park's hospitality at The George Town Club and who became implicated in the Koreagate scandal, only one of them ever served time in prison..."

The Power House also noted that in the 1990s Park still traveled "freely to live and do business in Washington, and American troops" were "still in South Korea," while "South Korea's intelligence opeations grew stronger, not weaker, in the aftermath of the scandal."

(Downtown 8/4/93)

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