The Justice Department's questioning here of Tongsun Park, the accused South Korean agent, has produced evidence that is likely to result in the indictment of two former congressmen, U.S. officials said yesterday.
The officials identified them as former Reps. Otta E. Passman (D-La.) and William Minshall (R-Ohio).
Park's detailed testimony produced evidence involving two other former congressmen the officials said. They are Edwin W. Edwards, now governor of Louisiana, and Cornelius E. Gallagher (D-N.J.).
Edwards and Gallagher, who both left Congress in 1972, are not likely to be indicted, however, because of the federal statute of limitations, the officials said.
Evidence on more than a score of other present and former congressmen did not amount to criminal violations but their names and Park's testimony about them will be furnished to the House and Senate ethics committees.
There was no evidence, the officials also said, against several dozen other present and former congressmen about whom Park was questioned here.
This tentative assessment of Park's testimony was provided yesterday by the U.S. officials, who seemed eager to dispel the presumption that large numbers of present and former members of Congress were criminally involved in the South Korean businessman's alleged influence-buying scheme.
Park's 17 days of questioning ended here Wednesday and Justice Department investigators left for Washington yesterday, carrying with them several large cases crammed with documents and more than 2,000 pages of Park's testimony.
At a news conference at Seoul's Kimpo airport, the Justice Department official who concluded the questioning, Paul Michel, said the sessions with Park amounted to a "major breakthrough" in the Capitol Hill lobbying case.
Park was questioned under a joint U.S.-South Korean prosecution agreement negotiated over a period of several months by Ambassador Richard Sneider and Foreign Minister Park Tong Jin.
As the U.S. officials summarized their preliminary assessment of Park's testimony the cases break down into three categories:
1. Former congressmen who allegedly accepted sizable sums of money and are belived to have returned favors to Park. They were identified as Passman, Minshall, Edwards, Gallagher and former Rep. Richard T. Hanna (D-Calif.), who has already been indicted.
It has been reported by the Los Angeles Times that Park told questioners of giving Passman, Gallagher and Hanna more than $100,000 each in a series of cash payments. He reportedly also testified that he gave about $60,000 to Minshall, and that he made payments of $10,000 each to Edwards and his wife.
The Justice Department's indictment of Hanna says that he personally visited the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in Seoul to urge that the KCIA use Tongsun Park as a secret agent. It also charges that Hanna introduced Park to other members of Congress and, at Park's urging, convinced former Speaker Carl Albert, D-Okla., to lead a congressional trip to South Korea.
Gallagher was one of Tongsun Park's earliest friends in Congress. In 1973, Gallagher wrote a glowing letter to Park Chung Hee about Tongsun Park's lobbying skills, calling the young businessman "an Asian Henry Kissinger." In 1975, Gallagher received an unsecured loan of $250,000 from Tongsun Park.
Passman chaired the House subcommittee responsible for most foreign aid appropriations, and thus exerted great influence on the Food for Peace program. Tongsun Park earned large commissions on Food for Peace sales of rice to Korea. Passman also wrote Park Chung Hee praising Tongsun Park as a "a knowledgeable and dynamic individual."
Minshall also wrote the South Korean president praising the work of Tongsun Park in Washington. At Tongsun Park's request, Minshall arranged a meeting in 1970 between then secretary of defense Melvin Laird and a top South Korean official.
Edwards worked closely with Tongsun Park on rice sales, Edwards said, because he wanted to encourage South Korea to purchase rice from his home state, Louisiana.
2. Twenty-four present and former representatives and senators who allegedly received money of gifts from Park. According to the U.S. officials, there was no evidence in Park's testimony here that these 24 persons had returned favors for the payments, most of which amounted to a few hundred among this group, but relevant portions of Park's testimony about them will be distributed to the House and Senate ethics committees.
3. "Several dozen" present and former members of both houses who, according to Park's testimony, had never received money from him. Their names had been found on a number of lists Park had made, lists which seemed to suggest he had been in some way involved with them in Washington.
Park was questioned here about each name and denied making payments to any in this group. "The lists were phony and the people are innocent," said one U.S. official familiar with Park's testimony. Those in this grouping whose names had been publicly mentioned in the case will receive letters from the Justice Department informing them of Park's testimony, the official said.
Park, 42, is expected to leave Seoul soon for Washington to testify in closed-door sessiona of congressional committees.
He also agreed to testify at any trials that grow out of the case. Park himself has been indicted on 36 counts of conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud, and other charges but was granted immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for his testimony.