South Korean prosecutors have detained a former senior intelligence agency official on suspicion of diverting money for the election campaign of the party of ex-president Kim Young-Sam, officials said Thursday.
The investigation has raised a political storm, with the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) accusing the government of President Kim Dae-Jung of seeking to weaken its political opponents.
Kim Ki-Sup, former deputy head of the National Security Planning Agency, was detained by investigators late Wednesday, officials of the prosecutor general's office said.
He is being questioned in connection with allegations that the agency diverted some 70 million dollars from its budget to the then ruling New Korea Party (NKP) before parliamentary elections in 1996.
Kim Ki-Sup received a suspended two-year jail sentence in 1998 for taking some 54,000 dollars in bribes from a telecom company.
He was a close aide to Kim Hyun-Chul, second son of Kim Young-Sam, who was president until early 1998. Kim Hyun-Chul, nicknamed "Mr. Vice President," was sentenced to two years' jail for influence peddling.
At a New Year meeting with President Kim Dae-Jung, GNP head Lee Hoi-Chang called for a halt to the probe, which he said was politically motivated.
But Kim Dae-Jung flatly rejected the request, according to the presidential Blue House.
"I have heard that the investigation showed the NKP certainly had diverted money from the National Security Planning Agency," Kim Dae-Jung was quoted as telling the GNP leader.
It would be "a grave incident threatening the national security" if the money for the National Security Planning Agency, which is in charge of protecting national security, was used for election funds, he said.
"How could I demand prosecution authorities to stop it when they are investigating a serious case related to national security," Kim Dae-Jung said.
Prosecutors will also summon former agency head Kwon Young-Hae and other senior officials for questioning.
Yonhap news agency quoted prosecution sources as saying the diverted money was given to about 100 candidates of the New Korea Party ahead of the 1996 elections.
The New Korea Party became the Grand National Party, which is currently the main opposition party and the largest political group in the National Assembly.
The agency became the National Intelligence Service after President Kim Dae-Jung took over from Kim Young-Sam -- SEOUL (AFP)
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