Accomplice in Deutsch Motors case said he would talk to “VIP” about Marines division commander, recording shows

Posted on : 2024-07-10 17:38 KST Modified on : 2024-07-10 18:57 KST
A recording that captures a conversation between a figure at the heart of the Deutsch Motors stock manipulation case and a lawyer suggests that the president was lobbied to protect a Marine division commander whose subordinate died during flood rescue work
President Yoon Suk-yeol and former Marine Corps 1st Division commander Lim Seong-geun. (file photo/Hankyoreh)
President Yoon Suk-yeol and former Marine Corps 1st Division commander Lim Seong-geun. (file photo/Hankyoreh)

The Hankyoreh obtained a recording revealing that Lee Jong-ho, the former CEO of asset management firm Black Pearl Invest, claimed to have lobbied a “VIP” to protect Lim Seong-geun, who is suspected of bearing responsibility for the death of a Marine corporal surnamed Chae in his former capacity as the commander of the 1st Marines Division. Lee, who is personally acquainted with first lady Kim Keon-hee, received a two-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, for his role in the Deutsche Motors stock manipulation case, in which Kim is also implicated.

On Tuesday, the Hankyoreh obtained a recording of a phone conversation from Aug. 9 of last year between a whistleblower lawyer, identified by the initial K, and Lee. 

In the recording, Lee said, “[Person X] called me saying that [Lim Seong-geun] was going to resign. So I told [Person X], ‘Tell him not to resign. I'll talk to the VIP.’” (Editor’s note: The term VIP is often used in reference to the president in Korea.)

This conversation took place on Aug. 9, 2023, seven days after the Ministry of National Defense’s prosecution team retrieved Chae's case from the police, amidst widespread media coverage of suspicions that Lim might be excluded from charges. Both the lawyer K and Lee are former Marines, as is Person X, who is mentioned in the call and formerly was a member of the Presidential Security Service. In a group chat that included these three individuals, there was also a discussion about organizing a golf meeting with Lim in May last year.

Lee also reiterated that the “VIP” had decided to protect Lim. When the lawyer K asked, “So, you’re saying that the VIP decided to protect Lim?” Lee responded, “That's right. But the media is making a fuss.” 

The Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials, which is investigating allegations of external pressure on the original investigation into Chae’s death, obtained the aforementioned recording and is examining the claims. However, they are also considering the possibility that Lee’s statements might be exaggerated or false and are trying to get a clearer picture of the situation.

Lee told the Hankyoreh, “I don't know how the recording was edited or manipulated to make it seem like I said those things,” adding, “Lawyer K was the first to use the term ‘VIP,’ and I don't personally know [Lim Seong-geun], nor do I have any reason to advocate for his protection.”

The former member of the Presidential Security Service mentioned in the conversation clarified, “I only told Lee that it was unfortunate [Lim Seong-geun] had resigned. At that time, I wasn't aware of Lee's connections to first lady [Kim Keon-hee].”

By Jeon Gwang-joon, staff reporter; Oh Yeon-seo, staff reporter; Bae Ji-hyun, staff reporter; Jeong Hye-min, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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