The maverick member of the House committee investigating alleged South Korean influence buying in Congress announced yesterday that he'll travel to Seoul next week with hopes of sitting in on the Justice Department questioning of accused Korean agent Tongsun Park.
Rep. Bruce F. Caputo (R N.Y.) said yesterday in a telephone interview from New York that he wanted to observe the proceedings "to see how Park reacts if he gets a tough question, to see how much coaching he gets from the Korean officals present."
Caputo emphasized that his trip was not meant as an endorsement of the Justice Department agreement with the South Korean government to obtain Park's testimony. That agreement has been bitterly criticized by Rep. John J. Flynt Jr. (D-Ga.), chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, and Leon Jaworski, the committee's special counsel.
Both have expressed anger that the terms of the agreement make no provision for Park to be questioned by the committee.
Jaworski both reiterated this criticism and lauded Caputo's plans in a telephone interview from Houston yesterday.
"I think Bruce feels as we do that the proceeding is a mistake . . . a farce. But it might be good for him to observe and judge for himself" Jaworski said. "The worst Part of it is that the South Korean government, by offering this token, might think they've gotten of the hook, that they've cooperated.
"South Korea is deluding itself if it thinks that."
Caputo said he expected the Koreans to agree to let him observe the questioning because a Senate ethics committee staff member made the trip with the Justice officials.
The Justice Department hopes to get testimony from Park that will lead to indictments of members of Congress who allegdly accepted cash bribes from him in return for their support on U.S. aid bills for Korea.