(Photo: Moon Hyung Pyo, head of the South Korean National Pension Service. From: Reuters)
Moon Hyung-pyo was detained by the Special Prosecutor investigating the Choi Soon-sil corruption scandal. He will be charged with perjury and abuse of power for pressuring a state-bank to back a controversial merger of two Samsung units (Straights Times). He is also being charged with strong-arming companies to donate to two controversial organizations tied to Choi Soon-sil. Reuters reports that his home was raided by officers on Monday in relation to these crimes. On Wednesday, Moon was placed under emergency detention (Arirang News).This marks a widening of the charges, as Moon is the first official to be charged with crimes not directly affiliated with Choi-gate. He is also yet another high ranking official being charged with influence peddling throughout the investigation.
As a public servant, Moon Hyung-pyo has a long record. Before he was the head of the Pension Fund, Moon served as the Minister of Health and Welfare, to which he was appointed in 2013. His tenure at the position, however, was also marked with scandal. Many placed blame for the spread of MERS in Korea in 2014 on his shoulders, and as minister he rejected a proposal to raise pension coverage 10% to 50% of retirement, calling “theft of the youth” (Korea Times). Many felt he was unqualified in 2015 when his name began to circulate as a possible candidate for the head of the National Pension Service.
Moon’s arrest signifies a growing net of possible corruption in the Park administration. The Choi scandal forced the National Assembly to vote in favor of impeaching President Park Geun-hye on December 9. Currently, the motion is awaiting the Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold or rescind the motion. While the court deliberates, the selected Special Prosector, Park Young-soo, will continue his investigation.*
*For my more detailed analysis of the impeachment motion, please see “The People vs. President Park: An Analysis of the December 9 Impeachment Vote” posted to this blog earlier this month.