The Justice Department said yesterday it would leave open its various offers to South Korean businessman Tongsun Park - including interrogation in a neutral country and possible immunity from prosecution - despite the failure of negotiations on the United States' right to question Park about alleged South Korean influence buying on Capitol Hill.
Benjamin R. Civiletti, head of the department's Criminal Division, said he and other U.S. negotiators "did not close the door" when they left Seoul last week after four days of fruitless negotiations with Korean officials.
Civiletti said he expected that some agreement would eventually be reached permitting U.S. investigators to question Park about South Korea's alleged efforts to win friends in Congress through bribery.
Park, a well-known Washington businessman and socialite until he left the United State hurriedly last year, has been indicted on 36 fclong counts in connection with the alleged Korean influence-buying.
He is generally considered the most important witness for criminal prosecutions or congressional disciplinary action against any American officials involved in the case. But he has refused to talk to American investigators.
The Justice Department yesterday released a statement setting forth its position in last week's negotiations over American questioning of Park.
The document portrayed the American negotiators as willing to compromise, but said the South Koreans made little or no movement from their initial position.
In essence, the statement said the United States wanted to question Park directly with some safeguards as to the truth of what he said, such as lie detectors or voice stress tests.
If those conditions could be met, the statement said, the U.S. side was willing to talk to Park here or in any third country of his choice. It said the United States would agree to plea-bargaining "or would even consider dismissal of the indictment against him" if Park would talk.
According to the Justice statement, the Koreans would permit only indirect questioning, with American prosecutors passing their questions to Park through Korean officials. The Koreans said Park would permit interrogation only in South Korea.
Kim Su Doc, information attache at the Korean embassy here, said yesterday that South Korea "is willing and has been willing to allow questioning within the framework of international practices.
Kim suggested the "international practice" he referred to was the Lockheed Aircraft Corp. case, in which Japanese prosecutors sat in on American questioning, in the United States, of a Lockheed executive accused of bribing Japanese officials.
The Justice Department says that the Lockheed case is not analogous because American and Japanese rules of evidence differ and because Park's position cannot be compared to the Lockheed executive's role in the Japanese case.
The Justice statement yesterday said the negotiators could not even agree on terms for a brief meeting last week between Park and Civiletti. The Americans came home without seeing Park.
State Department officials are continuing their efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement. In Congress, there are indications that the failure of last week's negotiations may increase efforts to cut American foreign aid to South Korea.