Skip to comments.US Kerry Fund-Raisers Met With South Korean Intelligence Agent
Posted on 09/21/2004 12:03:59 AM PDT by HAL9000
WASHINGTON (AP)--A South Korean man who met with John Kerry's fund-raisers to discuss creating a new political group for Korean-Americans was an intelligence agent for his country, raising concerns among some U.S. officials that either he or his government may have tried to influence this fall's election.
South Korean officials and U.S. officials told The Associated Press that Chung Byung-Man, a consular officer in Los Angeles, actually worked for South Korea's National Intelligence Service.
A spokesman for the South Korean consulate office said Chung was sent home in May amid "speculation" he became involved with the Kerry campaign and Democratic Party through contacts with fund-raiser Rick Yi and that his identity couldn't be discussed further.
"According to international tradition, we cannot identify, we cannot say who he is, because he is intelligence people," spokesman Min Ryu said.
The State Department said it has discussed Chung's reported activities with the South Korean government and has no reason to doubt Seoul's representations he was an intelligence agent.
The department believes Chung's contacts with donors and fund-raisers, if accurately described in reports, were "inconsistent" with the 1963 Vienna Convention that prohibits visiting foreign officials from interfering in the internal politics and affairs of host countries, a spokesman for its legal affairs office said.
A campaign spokesman for Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, said the campaign did not know Chung was an intelligence agent or that Yi, one of the campaign's key fund-raisers in the Asian-American community, was meeting with him until it was brought to light by the AP.
The AP first reported this spring that Yi and other Kerry fund-raisers and donors had met with Chung, but at the time Chung was only identified as a diplomat. Yi resigned from the Kerry campaign after the story, and Kerry returned $4,000 in donations he had solicited because of concerns about their origins.
AP was alerted to the meetings and Chung's identity as an intelligence agent by Democratic donors and fund-raisers who said they were uncomfortable with the activities.
A South Korean government official in Seoul and two longtime U.S. officials in Washington, both speaking on condition of anonymity because Chung's intelligence work is classified, told AP that Chung worked for South Korea's NIS, the country's CIA equivalent.
The U.S. officials said Chung had registered with the Justice Department as a friendly foreign intelligence agent on U.S. soil, and that his activities had raised concern he or his government had tried to influence the fall presidential election through "extracurricular activities."
The FBI has not begun a formal counterintelligence investigation because Chung left the United States in May, the officials said.
The NIS dismissed any suggestion the South Korean government tried to influence American politics as a "totally groundless rumor and all fiction."
South Korea has been frustrated over the deadlock in talks on North Korea's nuclear activities, while at the same facing the Bush administration's planned withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops from the tense region. One expert said Chung's actions were consistent with Seoul's concerns with the Bush administration even if he didn't get a direct order.
"It is certainly possible that these actions would not reflect an order from the top but rather point to the unaccountability of a rather high-ranking officer to pursue their own agenda or what they perceive to be the agenda of their superiors," said Nicholas Eberstadt, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute.
"But, nonetheless, this sort of intervention certainly provides a faithful reflection of the general attitude of Roh Moo-hyun's administration toward the presidential race," Eberstadt said. "There's an awful lot of people in this ( South Korean) government who can't stand the Bush administration and would love to see Bush lose."
South Korean officials said Yi and Chung had known each other for some time. Before moving to Los Angeles, Chung worked in South Korea's consular offices in Atlanta, where Yi was working for a high-tech company.
Yi had worked in the Clinton White House as a military attache, and eventually went into business in the Atlanta area with the son of disgraced former South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan. Yi began raising money for Kerry in 2003 and raised about $500,000 for Democratic causes.
Yi told AP that he met with Chung at least three times in California to discuss starting a political action group for Korean-Americans. "He contacted me to ask me to help him set up a Korean-American Leadership Council," Yi said, adding he turned down the offer because he was too busy.
Before the discussions with Chung in California, Yi had started a Korean- American political group in the Atlanta area called the Pacific Democratic Alliance, according to incorporation papers filed in March 2002 with the state of Georgia.
South Korean officials said Yi asked Chung to help introduce him to Korean- Americans in California as Yi began fund-raising in the state. Chung made some personal introductions but never directly solicited political donations, Ryu said.
A leader in Los Angeles' large Korean-American community who met with Yi and Chung said it was common knowledge within the community that Chung worked for intelligence.
"He's coming from the intelligence, I know it, what we call the Korean CIA. ... It's not secret," said Kee Whan Ha, president of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles and a donor to both Kerry and Republican candidates.
Ha said Yi solicited him once for a $25,000 donation while Chung was present.
"Mr. Chung actually (did) nothing to encourage any money from me. Because he knows even though he tries hard on me I'm not going to listen," Ha said. "I don't have to listen. I have no business with the Korean government. ... So he was kind of quiet at the meeting."
Yi told those at the meeting that he held a high position in the Kerry campaign and "since he has good connections, if the Korean community (is) helping him then he can help the Korean community," Ha said.
wow, either there really is such a thing as an honest dem, or Hillary is nastier than even I thought.
In this area, there are lots of South Korean nationals. Just go to any convenience store. Any. They own them all. How and why? Well, there's the Korean Businessmen's Association. This organization runs the Korean community. They hold weekly and monthly meetings. At these meetings, each attendee must pay a fee for attending. These funds are then given to one of the attendees to buy a business that has been lined up for sale to the group. So those who want to get into business have a way to do so.
At the same time, all of the distributors that support these stores are also Korean owned. If you have the store, you must buy from these distributors. The more you buy, the wider the line of products they offer for sale to you. Sound familiar?
Well, also around here, the convenience stores are the only place that the meth cooks get their pseudoephedrine. The Association closely controls the distribution of those cold pills, and they also used to contract for their manufacture and importation from Korea. The sales of those pills are what drives the desire to own these stores. The profit margins are HUGE. Thankfully, the law has stepped in and put a much tighter leash on the amounts that can be sold at the wholesale level, driving the sales down. Same goes for the profit margin of these stores.
Like so many other aspects of the WOsD, there's a lot more than meets the eye. The Korean community is one of those that is basically closed to non-Koreans. They are very secretive about how they do business. Now you know why.
Well what would we expect from a Dem.? Clinton had China why shouldn't Kerry have his favorite Communist State? He worked for them during the 70's and now in the 2000's. After all he is their pinup boy. North Korean war hero.
A win for Kerry now is a loss for her in 2008, besides she won't let him have campaign funds that belong to her...get real..LOL
"Nothing to see here - move along, folks..."
Juicier article than the one in the Washington Times.
"Nothing to see here - move along, folks..."
Nope it isn't a story unless it is bad for Bush.
Grr, what a world!!!
Thanks for the ping!