To hear Suzi Park Thomson tell it, she has been caught up unfairly in the South Korean influence-buying scandal merely because he was related to the Korean ambassador's wife and happened to give parties for, and travel to Korea with, several members of Congress.
In an interview in her attorney's office yesterday, Thomson insisted that she was never part of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency's lobbying effort in Washington and that she never passed money or gifts to the congressmen she met while she was an aide to House Speaker Carl Albert.
"I have friends in the American CIA, too," she said. "That doesn't make me a spy, does it?"
Thomson has been questioned several times by a federal grand jury in Washington seeking details of the South Korean governments efforts to lobby Congress for continued U.S. aid.
Donald L. Ranard, head of the State Department's - Korean desk in the early 1970s, recalls that U.S. intelligence reports named Thomson as part of the KCIA lobbying apparatus.
Ranard and other knowledgeable sources say Thomson's function seemed to be to serve as a hostess for parties that featured her Korean cooking and appearances by embassy officials such as Kim Yung Hwan. Kim was KCIA station chief here until being recalled last fall when details of the Korean lobbying campaign were disclosed.
Thomson said yesterday she didn't know Kim was in the KCIA until she read about him in The Washington Post. Her main connection with the embassy was an innocent family tie, she said.
The wife of the Kim Dong Jo, the South Korean ambassador here in the early 1970s, was related to her father, Thomson, said, so she would often visit with the family and attend embassy functions.
Thomson worked for Reps. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), Herbert Tenzer (D-N.Y.) and Lester Wolff (D-N.Y.) in the late 1060s, before joining Albert's staff when he became Speaker in 1971.
She said yesterday that Albert had tried to hire her several times before but that she had turned him down in a very diplomatic way."
In August that same year Thomson was part of a delegation that visited South Korea. She went along, she said, as an interpreter for Mrs. Albert.
In the years that followed she made several other trips to Korea. In 1973 she traveled there with Rep. Robert Leggett (D-Calif.) who has acknowledged having a love affair with Thomson. In 1975 she went with a delagation headed by Wolff and later the same year with a group of congressional Korean War veterans led by Rep. John Murphy (D-N.Y.)
She never arranged appointments on any of the visits, she said. "I was usually with the wives as an interpreter," she said. "I spent a lot of time sitting around beauty shops."
Thomson said she had seen Washington businessman Tongsun Park in Seoul on some of those visits. She claims she did not know Park well, though she attended several of his lavish parties in Washington, often accompanied by congressmen. Park, who now lives in London, is a central figure in the investigations.
Her attorney, Phillip Hirshkop, said Thomson has agreed to cooperate with the House ethics committee, which is checking reports of misconduct by individual members.
In a related development yesterday, a member of the ethics committee, Rep. Bruce J. Caputo (R-N.Y.), announced that he will ask that the committee seek access to the White House tapes of former President Nixon because he believes both Nixon and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger knew of the Korean influence-buying effort and discussed it but did nothing to stop it.