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Cablegate: Free Nk Radio Director Kim Seong-Min Indicted For

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #3616/01 3650339
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 310339Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7891
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR

UNCLAS SEOUL 003616

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT OF STATE FOR DRL ATTN: KAREN CHEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KS KN PREF ELAB
SUBJECT: FREE NK RADIO DIRECTOR KIM SEONG-MIN INDICTED FOR
EMBEZZLING ROKG FUNDS

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The Seoul Southern District Prosecutor's Office on
December 12 revealed that Free North Korea Radio Director Kim
Seong-min was indicted on charges of fabricating employment
documents of North Korean defectors in order to receive government
subsidy funding for employing North Korean defectors at his
organization. Kim, himself a North Korean defector, was also
charged with not properly compensating defectors for their editorial
contributions that were used as part of the radio's programming. It
was reported that the Prosecutor's Office had already confirmed most
of the charges against Kim during several investigative sessions.
Kim is expected to resign as Director of Free NK Radio. Meanwhile,
ten other defectors were indicted at the same time as Kim for
similar charges of embezzling ROKG defector employment subsidy
funding. END SUMMARY.

DETAILS OF KIM SEONG-MIN'S RECENT INDICTMENT
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) According to various South Korean media reports, Free
North Korea Radio Director Kim Seong-min was indicted on charges of
embezzling KW 43 million (approximately USD 43,000) in ROKG defector
employment subsidy funding by falsely declaring the salaries of his
North Korean employees. (NOTE: As part of a 50 percent-wage subsidy
package, the ROKG grants up to KW 700,000 per month to
businesses/organizations for each North Korean defector they
employ. END NOTE.) Kim was also charged with applying for
additional subsidy funding by using the names of defectors who were
not employed in his organization. A December 12 Kookmin Ilbo
article added that Kim was also charged with not properly
compensating defectors for their editorial contributions that were
used as part of the radio's programming.

3. (SBU) In a written apology posted on the Free North Korea Radio
homepage on December 15, Kim acknowledged most of the charges, while
trying to explain the financial circumstances that led him to rely
on more "expedient means" to increase the monthly wages of his North
Korean employees from KW 300,000 to KW 800,000 using the KW 500,000
in subsidy funding that his organization received from the ROK
government for each defector employed by the NGO. Kim also claimed
that the "fake" defector employees were either former or irregular
employees, who had participated in producing the organization's
broadcasting content by contributing editorials or recording
programs, and thus were compensated for their "work" using the
subsidy money. Kim also stated that his organization, according to
its statute, was not obliged to pay defectors for their written
testimonies, thus rebutting the claim that his organization was not
properly paying defectors for their editorial contributions.

4. (SBU) Based on these justifications, Kim criticized the South
Korean press for portraying him as a "worthless defector," who had
taken advantage of loopholes in the ROKG defector support system to
promote his private interests. Kim concluded his statement by
demanding that the Korean press correct its reporting, while
acknowledging the need to take responsibility for breaking the law.
Kim expressed his intention to resign from his position as Director
of Free NK Radio upon the approval of his organization's
Broadcasting Committee, which is chaired by Hwang Jang-yop -- the
highest-level North Korean official to come to the ROK. (NOTE: Kim
is currently waiting for judicial action on his case. END NOTE.)


OTHER DEFECTORS INDICTED FOR SIMILAR CHARGES
--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Ten other defectors were indicted at the same time as Kim
for similar charges of embezzling ROKG defector employment subsidy
funds by fabricating documents that were submitted to the Ministry
of Labor (MOL) -- the ROK government agency that handles defector
employment issues. Among the ten who were indicted, two are
currently in custody, including the owner of a chicken restaurant
who had received KW 67 million (approximately USD 67,000) from the
ROKG during a two-year period for "employing" three defectors. A
Mr. Choi, the other defector in custody, was charged with conspiring
with six other defectors to receive approximately KW 20 million in
subsidy funding during a 22-month period exploiting similar
labor-related provisions exclusively for defectors.

LOOPHOLES IN ROKG EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT SYSTEM
-------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) According to the Prosecutor's Office, the recent
indictments resulted from investigations that started in July 2007.
The fundamental reason for these crimes, according to an
investigator, was because of the MOL's mismanagement of defector
funding. In fact, Maeil Business TV reported that the MOL's
Employment Assistance Center had given out related funding without

any oversight measures in place. "MOL just takes care of the
paperwork and the documents are sent to the Ministry of
Unification," said an unnamed MOL official.

7. (SBU) This is also the case for other types of employment
subsidy funding for other social minority groups, resulting in over
100 cases of fraud each year. The MOL, however, attributed the
current difficulty in preventing such crimes to a lack of manpower
within the ministry that prevents regular on-site visits to
businesses and individuals that receive government subsidy funding,
and acknowledged the need to institute stricter procedures in
granting and maintaining governmental funding.

COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) News of Kim Seong-min's recent indictment has disappointed
Kim's South Korean sponsors and defectors, who have regarded Kim as
a strong leader within the defector community. There are
unconfirmed rumors that some disgruntled former employees of Free NK
Radio, who were suspicious of Kim's use of the subsidy funding,
tipped-off the Prosecutor's Office about his "illegal" methods.
Since Kim does not refute many of his charges against him, the news
is likely to hurt the reputation of his organization, which stood
out as the first defector-run radio station to broadcast into North
Korea. Meanwhile, the other cases serve to highlight the fraudulent
activities of defectors, which not only reflect some of the negative
side-effects of governmental resettlement assistance policies, but
also point to the temptations that defectors face in relying on
illegal methods to make "easy" money in the ROK. END COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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