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State prosecutors said yesterday they have sought an arrest warrant for Chang Dong-ik, former president of the Korea Medical Association, on grounds he embezzled and misappropriated over 300 million won ($322,000) of association funds.
The Seoul Central Prosecutors` Office also booked him for providing tens of millions of won to lawmakers in attempts to influence their legislation on health and welfare.

"We`ve confirmed that a sizable amount of money was embezzled by Chang, and that he bribed some lawmakers to influence legislation," said Park Chol-joon, a senior prosecutor. "We`ve requested an arrest warrant since there is a great chance that Chang will destroy evidence or flee with the expectation of receiving harsh punishment." Prosecutors have also summoned and interrogated two lawmakers on the Health and Welfare Committee at the National Assembly, who allegedly received tens of millions of won in illegal funds from Chang last year.

"On Tuesday and Wednesday, we respectively summoned Rep. Ko Kyung-hwa and Rep. Kim Byoung-ho of the Grand National Party as possible suspects," Park said.

Ko and Kim reportedly admitted to having taken the money but denied accusations of any wrongdoing, insisting the moneys were Chang`s personal political donations, not association funds.

Prosecutors said they are also reviewing other possible cases involved in the illegal lobby scandal and signaled more lawmakers would soon be subpoenaed.

They have sent a subpoena to Rep. Chung Hyung-keun of the GNP, who allegedly received 10 million won from Chang last year. Chung has taken legal action against a local newspaper for reporting his suspicion of bribery.

Prosecutors said they also plan to summon several government officials in the Health and Welfare Ministry who allegedly received kickbacks from the KMA.

According to an inspection report on the KMA, the organization spent 640 million won from May 2006 to January of this year, during Chang`s leadership of the organization. Of that, some 270 million won was spent without any documentary evidence.

Chang headed the KMA between March 2006 and late April 2007.

The Seoul Central District Court will hold a hearing on Monday to decide whether or not to issue an arrest warrant.

The KMA`s lobbying scandal erupted last month following media reports of Chang`s March 31 meeting with local division leaders of the association, where he mentioned that the KMA has paid three lawmakers 2 million won per month since he became the president.

Chang has reportedly admitted to paying for golf trips for several government officials at the Health Ministry, and that some money was spent on the campaign in favor of the KMA on the revision of the medical law and the year-end tax settlement bill.

However, the KMA has insisted that no cash was given to the lawmakers, saying that the money was spent on meetings and dinners with lawmakers and their aides.

By Annie I. Bang (aibang@heraldm.com)

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