U.S. intelligence agencies reported during the early 1970s that South Korean President Park Chung Hee was personally directing a broad-scale covert lobbying campaign in the United States, according to summaries of secret documents released yesterday.
Rep. Donald M. Fraser (D-Minn.), chairman of a House International Relations subcommittee investigating U.S. Korean relations, said the intelligence reports show that President Park once considered, but rejected, a plan placing businessman Tongsun Park in charge of all the Korean lobbying in Washington.
Instead, President Park and his top advisers set up a special "foreign policy review board," Fraser said, to co-ordinate a variety of lobbying operations.
The lobbying was aimed at ensuring the flow of U.S. military and economic aid to Korea.
Though U.S. intelligence agencies were sending detailed reports of the meetings in the Korean presidential mansion, the Blue House, to Washington as early as 1971, the Nixon administration failed to take adequate steps to stop the improper lobbying, Fraser added.
Yesterday's hearing was the first of several in which the subcommittee seeks to document how much the U.S. executive branch knew of the Korean effort. Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and former Attorney General John N. Mitchell are among those the subcommittee hopes to call as witnesses next week, Fraser said.
Some of the documents released yesterday indicate that the FBI either was not aware or ignored some of the intelligence reports on Tongsun Park's activities.
A subcommittee aide said coming hearings would establish that only high administration officials were informed of some aspects of the Korean lobbying.
The subcommittee is studying the Korean lobbying as a sort of case history of a failure of U.S. foreign policy. Its approach has been scholarly at times, since its aim is not to punish wrongdoers.
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is conducting an investigation of members who may have violated ethical standards by accepting cash or favors from Koreans.
William J. Porter, U.S. ambassador to Korea at the time the lobbying campaign was initiated, testified that he witnessed the lobbying grow to a point where "everyone was talking about the lavish way the Koreans were approaching the legislative branch. Tongsun Park was cutting too wide a swath."
But the U.S. government, he said, was "very permissive" in its attitude toward the lobbying. "It must have been [permissive], voluntarily or by oversight, for the thing to grow as the Tongsun Park thing did from 1972 to 1975 or 6."
Porter said Tongsun Park was spending so much money and had so much freedom of action that he thought some group, probably the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, was subsidizing Park.
Tongsun park has been indicted for conspiring to bribe members of Congress and for failing to register as a foreign agent, and is now back in Washington to testify before congressional investigators and at the bribery trial of former Rep. Richard T. Hanna (D-Calif.).
It has been reported that Tongsun Park made more than $750,000 in payments, mostly in cash, to members of Congress during the early 1970s.
The Korean government has consistently denied that Park was its agent.
The Washington Post reported in October 1976 that the Korean lobbying effort was initiated by President Park in meetings at the Blue House, and that U.S. intelligence reports "apparently" included tape recordings of those meetings.
In releasing the summary of U.S. intelligence reports on those meetings yesterday, subcommittee investigators said the source was considered "highly reliable." There was no evidence it was a bug or wiretap on the Korean president's residence, however, they said.
Porter said he was skeptical about the reliability of the reports and strongly implied they had come from a Korean official in Seoul. "They didn't tell our people any more than they wanted to say," he said. "They know how to keep secrets."
"I wouldn't bet on that, necessarily, as a useful report on what went on at those meetings," he said.
Porter backed off, however, when Fraser challenged him because he, as ambassador, was responsible for the intelligence reporting sent from the embassy to Washington. He said he didn't know the source.
The intelligence summaries of the Blue House meetings said that among those considered to be placed under Tongsun Park's control were: Lee Sang Ho, the KCIA station chief in Washington (whose real name is Yang Du Won); Pak Bo Hi, head of the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation in Washington, and Kang Young Hoon, a former Korean Army general who headed a research institute on Korean affairs in suburban Washington.
pak, who is now the chief aide to Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon, attended the hearing yesterday and denied in a hallway interview - as he has before - that he has ever acted at the direction of the Korean government.
The subcommittee also released yesterday a 708-page book of documents that includes a variety of FBI, CIA and other investigative reports. Among the records are:
A February 1963 CIA report that says Moon's Unification Church was organized by high-ranking government official Kim Jong Pil while he was head of the KCIA.
The report was labeled as unevaluated, however, and it is generally believed that Moon founded his church in 1954, before President Park came to power and the KCIA was founded.
Exchanges of correspondence between the State and Justice departments in 1971, including a "secret" June 1971 memo in which State passed on CIA references to Korean intelligence connections involving Tongsun Park and Pak Bo Hi.
Justice responded by conducting what the documents show to be only a cursory investigation that didn't include any interview of Tongsun Park. In one Justice memo, "he is referred to as Mr. Sun.