A politician accused of influencing the hiring of staff at Kangwon Land – the only casino in South Korea at which locals are allowed to gamble – has been acquitted of all charges.
According to a report by Yonhap News Agency, Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the People Power Party was found not guilty by the Supreme Court of a range of charges related to a hiring scandal at Kangwon Land in 2012 and 2013. The scandal ultimately led to former CEO Choi Hung-jib being jailed for three years.
Kweon was one of two members of the People Power Party accused by Choi of pressuring the state-run casino operator to hire 11 people, including an intern at his parliamentary office, and asking other government officials to hire a friend of his as an external director of the company.
He had already been acquitted in an earlier trial due to insufficient evidence of any interference by the government into Kangwon Land’s affairs, while the court also stated at the time that it was difficult to believe the words of the 71-year-old Choi. The prosecution launched an appeal in March 2020 but the Supreme Court last week confirmed the initial ruling.
“The issue is whether the accused has ever solicited former President Choi,” the court said. “The prosecution failed to prove it enough to rule out the [original] judge’s reasonable suspicion.”
Kangwon Land issued a statement in September 2019 in which it admitted that it had hired 518 people in 2012 and 2013 of which 493 of them – around 95% – were appointed due to connections with various “influential people.”
The corruption was uncovered in 2015 while Choi was found guilty in 2019. He lost an appeal in 2021.
The original trial judge stated of Choi, “As the Chief Executive of a public institution, he was responsible for refusing external solicitations and protecting the fairness and objectivity of the hiring process, but he neglected to do so and took the lead in the crime of hiring a specific person in the form of open recruitment by receiving a request from a powerful person.”
Kangwon Land’s then-head of the Planning and Coordination Office was also sentenced to 10 months in prison with two years of probation for participating in corruption relating to the public recruitment of water quality and environment experts at the resort’s Water World theme park.