INVESTIGATIONS: Koreagate on Capitol Hill?

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The buzz words, like "stonewall" and "limited hangout," have not resurfaced—at least not yet. But there is an unmistakable sniff of Watergate wafting over the Hydra-headed investigations of exported South Korean corruption currently under way in Washington. The White House cover-up to protect its guilty is still fresh in everyone's memory. Yet here is the Legislative Branch displaying, at the very least, a marked lack of enthusiasm to get to the bottom of a scandal that could badly tarnish Congress.

New Revelations. So far the scandal has been focused on cash gifts to U.S. politicians who might have clout in decisions involving aid to the Park Chung Hee regime in South Korea. New revelations continue to reinforce the impression that, as one congressional leader admitted, "there's a lot of Korean money around, and a lot of guys are involved." Among the main figures in the federal probes of Korean influence peddling: former Representative Richard Hanna of California, a silent partner in an import-export business run by Tongsun Park, a Washington-based Korean businessman with a yen for winning friends in high places; Louisiana Democrat Otto Passman, a longtime Park crony; and former New Jersey Congressman Cornelius Gallagher. Meanwhile, on another front, there are charges that the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) has been carrying out both open and "black" (undercover) operations in the U.S. on a broad scale.

According to Korean dissidents in the U.S. and Washington officials, the KCIA maintains at least 30 acknowledged agents in the U.S., operating mainly out of embassies and consulates. They can call on the services of 400 or more Korean businessmen, students and professors willing to perform undercover jobs. The operation of such a spy network on U.S. soil by a foreign power —even a friendly one—is illegal, not withstanding the fact that the U.S.'s own CIA has done much the same abroad.

One graphic account of KCIA activity was related last week to TIME Chicago Bureau Chief Benjamin Gate by Jai Hyon Lee, a former South Korean cultural and press attaché in Washington. Lee fell out with the Park regime and was granted asylum in the U.S. in 1973. In that year, says Lee, now an associate professor of journalism at Western Illinois University, the KCIA effectively took over the South Korean embassy. KCIA men began to hold daily "orientation" sessions in which diplomats, says Lee, were directed "to organize businessmen" in support of the Park government and to "seduce Congressmen" with influence on U.S.-Korean relations.

Lee insists he once saw then Ambassador Kim Dong Jo stuffing $100 bills into white envelopes. Kim's attaché case was "bulging with bundles of $100 bills. There must have been several hundred thousand dollars in that briefcase. It was an astonishing sight." Says Lee:

"I asked him where he was going." Kim, looking as if the question were naive, replied: "To the Capitol." Lee is convinced the money was intended for Congressmen and other officials.

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