Hancho Kim's criminal trial began yesterday with the government describing him as a braggart who kept $600,000 in Korean funds intended to influence members of congress, and his defense attorney describing him as an innocent victim of a plot by the Korean CIA who never received any money.
The Korean-born Lanham, Md., cosmetics manufacturer is the first person to go to trial on criminal charges growing out of the alleged Korean influence-peddling scandal. The U.S. government charges him with conspiring to defraud the United States of the legitimate performances of members of Congress and lying to a grand jury about his alleged receipt of a $300,000 cash payment from a Korean CIA agent here.
Justice Department attorney John T. Kotelly said Kim was part of a Korean CIA plot called "Operation White Snow" in which he was supposed to wine, dine and bribe members of Congress to impress them with the Korean viewpoint on various issues.
The main witness against Kim, Kotelly said, will be Sang Keun Kim, who was a KCIA agent in the Korean embassy before defecting to the United States. Sang Keun Kim, no relation to Hancho Kim, will testify that he was the link between Gen Yang Doo Wan in Korea and Hancho Kim in Lanham, Kotelly said.
The operation was complete with code names - Hancho Kim being "Dr. Hamilton" and Yang Doo Wan the "Catholic Father," for example - and a Telex machine that was installed in Kim's house for direct communication to KCIA headquarters in Seoul, Kotelly said.
Hancho Kim bragged to KCIA officials that he had great influence with members of Congress, complained that the initial installment of $300,000 was not enough to carry out the project properly, and was given another $300,000 Kotelly said.
Declaring that "Hancho Kim exagerated greatly," Kotelly said he was not a millionnaire as he told other Koreans and was not influential with members of Congress.
At least one congressman, Tennyson Guyer (R-Ohio), will testify that he occasionally helped Hancho Kim "out of friendship" and never asked for, was offered or received any money from him, Kotelly said.
Instead of using the money to influence members of Congress, Kotelly said, Hancho Kim began using it immediately to pay personal bills, buy a Cadillac, and generally upgrade his living standard.
Kim's defense attorney, David Povich, said the main government witness, Sang Keun Kim, is inherently unreliable, an incredible liar . . . He shifts, he covers himself, he does everything a spy would do. He's a spy."
He said Sang Keun Kim was involved in a plot with Gen. Yang Doo Wan to "Stash" funds in the United States so the general could defect here with a lot of money at his disposal. He said a check from Korean businessman Tongsun Park to Sang Keun Kim, part of which supposedly went to Hancho Kim, was actually a payoff from Park to the KCIA officials so Park could keep his rice exporting business intact.
Park was being "shaken down" by KCIA agents, and Sang Keun Kim would collect the money and put it in secret locations, Povich said.
Kim never received any money for the KCIA and supported his lifestyle by his successful cosmetics business, Povich said. He was the innocent victim of the Sang Keun Kim'Yang Doo Wan plot, and the $600,000 he supposedly received is secreted somewhere else on their behalf, Povich added.
The alleged payoffs to Hancho Kim are a "fictitious cover" to hide KCIA thefts from their country, Povich said. "It is the perfect con job - the most incredible scheme of all."
The trial continues Monday before U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Flannery. Jury selection in the case began Wednesday, and the trial may last as long as a month.