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Ruling party to request investigation into suspected internal bribery
SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- The ruling party said Thursday it will ask prosecutors to investigate allegations that a former party chairman earned the top position after bribing party lawmakers prior to its national convention, dealing a huge blow to the struggling party before this year's major elections.

   The ruling Grand National Party (GNP)'s announcement came after Rep. Ko Sung-doug told Yonhap News Agency a day earlier that he received but soon returned "an envelope containing 3 million won (US$2,609) from a lawmaker who ran for the party's chairmanship," adding the man was finally elected as the party's new leader.

   The GNP elects new leaders at its national conventions based on a vote by the party's electoral college, though the detailed rules are subject to change, and three rounds of the conventions have taken place so far during the current 18th National Assembly whose four-year term expires in May this year.

   Rep. Park Geun-hye, who is serving as the party's interim leader, took the helm of the party's emergency council last month on the heels of its former chairman Hong Joon-pyo's resignation under pressure from reformist lawmakers.

   Though Rep. Ko did not identify who allegedly bribed electoral college members, he said the former leader is a pro-Lee faction lawmaker, meaning loyal to the President Lee Myung-bak, while ruling out Hong.

   The scandal has unfolded as the party is struggling to revive its image and reclaim voters in the April elections, considered crucial as a precursor to the presidential race in December. It is the first time in 20 years that the major elections will be held in the same year.

   "We have decided to request an investigation into Rep. Ko's revelation within the day. If his allegations are true, it is against the Political Party Law," party spokesman Hwang Young-cheul said. "Our decision aims to revamp the distorted political culture."

   Upon the party's decision, Rep. Ko said, "I will fully cooperate with the investigation and convey all information about the incident if summoned."

   A lawmaker said on the condition of anonymity, "there have been rumors circulating that candidates for the party leadership gave out huge bribes," adding "It is likely that a Pandora's box is about to be opened."

   graceoh@yna.co.kr
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