After months of bargaining and a steady stream of rumors from Seoul, the Justice Department and the South Korean government are finally on the verge of an agreement for obtaining testimony from accussed Korean agent Tongsun Park.
Benjamin R. Civiletti, head of the departments Criminal Division, said yesterday in a telephone interview that he was hopeful a final agreement would be reached by early next week.
He said the agreement would mean Park would be interrogated under oath in Seoul, in the presence of Korean prosecutors, and then be available to return to the United States to testify in trials of individuals accused of accepting illegal payments from Korean agents.
A tentative date for the start of the interrogation reportedly is Dec. 26.
Park faces a 36-count felony indictment for his part in the alleged Korean lobbying campaign in Congress. The charges would be dropped in return for his truthful testimony, Civiletti has said.
Park's sworn testimony in Korean could be presented to a federal grand jury in Washington. Justice Department officials have said privately that Park's knowledge of the Korean influence-buying campaign could lead to several more indictments of current or former members of Congress.
Park's attorney, William G. Hundley, said last night that "I am somewhat concerned freedom of movement that I think would be in his best interest."
Hundley had proposed that Park be interviewed in a neutral, third country, preferably the Dominican Republic, where Park has a home.
The proposed agreement would, in effect, keep Park in the custody of U.S. authorities while in the United States and calls for his trials, according to leaked Korean versions of Civiletti denied yesterday that any agreement would include a prohibition against Park testifying before congressional committees conducing parallel investigations of unethical conduct by members.
Korean versions of the pending agreement floated from Seoul have included such a ban. "We've made it quite clear that we're speaking for the Justice Department, not the entire U.S. government," Civiletti said.
The Korean government has stead-fastly denied that Park ever had any connection with the Seoul regime, but has been under increasing pressure to make Park available.
Is is believed the Koreans fear that the committees would spotlight Park in televised hearings as some kind of Oriental John Dean, the White House attorney whose testimony proved so damaging to then President Nixon in the Watergate scandal.
Leon Jaworski, the special prosecutor in the Watergate case and now special counsel to the House Committee on Saturdays of Official Conduct, issued a statement yesterday warning the Korean government that his investigation also required Park's testimony.
He said members will "deplore any effort to deprive the legislative branch of access to a key witness .. ." In fact, Jaworski has made it clear he wants testimony from other Koreans, especially former Ambassador Kim Dong Jo, as well as from Tongsum Park.
Meanwhile yesterday in Washington, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Flannery refused to dismiss a conspiracy charge against Hancho Kim, a Washington businessman who allegedly received $600,000 from the Korean Central Intelligence Agency to pay and entertain U.S. officials and members of Congress.
Kim's attorney, David Povich, said the conspiracy charge did not cite a crime because there was no allegation that Kim had actually used the money for those purposes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney, John Kotelly said, however, that Kim did not have to use the money for the purpose for which it was intended to have committed a crime. Instead, he merely had to have received it with a "corrupt intent," Kotelly said.