Tongsun Park

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Tongsun Park

Tongsun Park (born 1935 in Sunch'ŏn, Korea) is a former South Korean lobbyist. He was involved in two political money-related scandals: Koreagate scandal in the 1970s, and the Oil-for-Food Program scandal of the 2000s. Park had a reputation as the "Asian Great Gatsby". [1]



In 1976, Park was charged with bribing members of the U.S. Congress, using money from the South Korean government, in a successful effort to convince the United States government to keep United States troops in South Korea. In 1977, he was indicted by a U.S. District Court on thirty-six counts, including bribery, illegal campaign contributions, mail fraud, racketeering, and failure to register as an agent of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. He avoided a federal trial by testifying to the court in exchange for immunity. His testimony did not have a major impact, though it led to three members of Congress getting reprimanded, and may have convinced Speaker of the House Carl Albert not to seek re-election. One of the implicated former representatives, Otto Passman of Louisiana's 5th congressional district based about Monroe, was charged with conspiracy, bribery, acceptance of an illegal gratuity, and income tax evasion. When his trial was moved from Washington, D.C., to Monroe, Passman was quickly acquitted. [2] Explained William G. Hundley, a former organized crime investigator for the U.S. Senate who attended the Passman trial:

I went there for the trial, and I'd go into restaurants with Park, and people would get up and leave. ... I thought the prosecution presented a pretty good case. But when the defense attorney, Camille Gravel, got up to cross-examine Tongsun Park, he carried a big map of Korea. He didn't even touch the merits of the case. He identified South Korea and noted that it's right under North Korea and next to China. Then he pointed out that North Korea and China are totalitarian communist states. The jury was out less than ninety minutes, and they acquitted Passman on every charge. [2]

Oil-for-food scandal

In 1992, Park was approached by Samir Vincent, an Iraqi-born American who was lobbying unofficially on behalf of the Saddam Hussein regime, to try to create a program that would bypass the United Nations-approved economic sanctions of Iraq that had started in 1991. Park agreed, requesting a payment of US$10 million for his effort, to which Vincent agreed. Park served as a liaison between Vincent and then-United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, with whom Park was friendly. In late 1996, partly as a result of Park's lobbying efforts, the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program began. After 1997, when Kofi Annan became the new secretary-general, the government of Iraq dropped its ties with Park; by then Park had received about US$2 million in payments.

In 2005 Park was accused of acting as an intermediary with corrupt United Nations officials in the oil-for-food conspiracy orchestrated by Saddam Hussein. His name surfaced as part of investigations into the oil-for-food scandal. In July 2006 he was convicted in a U.S. federal court on conspiracy charges. [3] He became the first person convicted through the oil-for-food investigation. On February 22, 2007, he was sentenced to five years in prison. He also was fined $15,000 and required to forfeit $1,200,000. [4] According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site, he was released from prison on September 10, 2008. The next day, he left the United States for South Korea. [5]

Social life

In 1966, he founded The Georgetown Club at 1530 Wisconsin Ave NW. He was known for throwing parties in his social club which is now turned into a private restaurant. [6] By the 1970s, his wealth of expensive homes, worldwide jet travel and a consulting firm (Parkington International Inc.) grew his influence among his connections and friends. [7]

See also

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  1. Morgan, Dan (1979). Merchants of Grain. Viking Press. p. 289. ISBN   978-0670471508.
  2. 1 2 Billy Hathorn, "Otto Passman, Jerry Huckaby, and Frank Spooner: The Louisiana Fifth Congressional District Campaign of 1976", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. LIV, No. 3 (Summer 2013), pp. 341-342
  3. Associated Press (July 13, 2006), Korean businessman guilty in oil-for-food case, NBC News, retrieved 2007-05-07
  4. Lynch, Colum (February 23, 2007), "Park Sentenced to 5 Years in U.N. Oil-for-Food Bribery Scandal", The Washington Post (80), pp. A–11
  5. 코리아 게이트 박동선씨 귀국 (in Korean), 국민일보 코리안 데일리 뉴스, 2008-09-15, archived from the original on 2012-03-20, retrieved 2010-03-30
  6. WETA. "The District's Own Asian Gatsby: Koreagate & the "Tongsun Park Problem"". Boundary Stones: WETA's Washington DC History Blog. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  7. O, Tara (May 13, 2019). "South Korea's Ruling Party Obtains U.S. Lobbying Service".