Leon Jaworski said yesterday that he will resign as special counsel to the House committee investigating Korean influence-buying in Congress, explaining that South Korea's refusal to allow a former ambassador to testify forces him to bring the inquiry to an end.
Jaworski said the investigation was "incomplete" but added that, without the testimony of former ambassador Kim Dong Jo, "ther is nothing else we can do."
Kim is suspected of having made or directed payments to about 10 House members. The Korean government, citing diplomatic immunity, has refused to make him available to testify.
Yesterday House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) announced that the Korean government had turned down a last-ditch request to allow two congressmen to meet with Korean President Park Chung Hee and attempt to persuade him to allow Kim to testify.
"I would say without our having his evidence, we have certainly come to a place where the investigation must come to a close. There is nothing else we can do," Jaworski said.
This is just a situation where his government is not interested. It wants to suppress what the facts are. He [Kim Dong Jo] wants to suppress the facts," he said.
Jaworski said, "We made every effort to get Kim," including a House vote to cut $56 million in food aid to pressure the Seoul government. He said he had even made efforts through "private sources" he would not disclose. "It didn't work either."
Jaworski said he would shortly leave the committee because "there won't be anything for me to do."
Jaworski said his only role was to conduct the investigation by the Committee on Standards of Professional Conduct, and that the remaining job of deciding what if any action to take against four members of Congress charged with improprieties in dealing with Korean lobbyist Tungsun Park is up to the committee members. He called it a "policy" matter and said he would play no role in the disposition of the investigation.
"All I'm doing is waiting to see if anything else turns up. It's not like an employer-employe relationship," Jaworski said, noting that he was serving the committee without pay. "I was an independent contractor doing it for Congress. If I could think of anything else to do, I would do it. Otherwise, this just terminates it."
Jaworski refused to say that the investigation was inconclusive, since he contended that the part dealing with Tongsun Park was resolved.
But he admitted it "leaves a question mark if all involved were brought to the bar answering to the facts."
Still, he said, the investigation is "bound to have a salutary effect. Congressmen who made mistakes are going to think more clearly and closely before proceeding in the future. This serves as a deterrent to those who might stray."
Jaworski said those who remained undiscovered because of Kim's refusal to testify are "only a handful, certainly not more than 10, and probably less."
Charges against the members who allegedly took money from Kim would have been more serious than charges against those who took cash gifts from Park, since the members who said they didn't know Park was working for the Korean government would have no such excuse with Kim. It is illegal for a member of Congress to take money from a foreign official.
Jaworski said he though that "two things are really important about the investigation. One, we went as far as we humanly could." And two, the extend of the wrongdoing ws "terribly exaggerated by the media. During the course of the investigation one newspaper estimated that as many as 115 congressmen were involved."
"To say some are going free and unscathed is unfair, because we do not have the facts," Jaworski said.
He praised highly the cooperation he received from O'Neill Minority Leader John J. Rhodes (R-Ariz.) and Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.). "They did everything they could do and went as far as they could go in helping the investigation," Jaworski said.
He was less enthusiastic about the help of the State Department. He said the State Department's contention that calling Kim to testify violated international conventions of diplomatic immunity "made it more difficult." He said he did not agree with the State Department on that, but he said State was "always helpful in setting up meetings and making arrangements."
Jaworski took the special counsel's job on July 20, 1977, after an urgent appeal to him from Wright and O'Neill.
Jaworski was recruited after Philip A. Lacovara quit the investigation and criticized the foot-dragging pace at which Committee Chairman John J. Flynt Jr. (D-Ga.) was conducting it. Lacovara had been Jaworski's assistant during the Watergate prosecution, which made Jaworski's name a household word.
Jaworski accepted this assignments after being assured of independence and total cooperation. He spent the first six months trying to get Tongsun Park to testify and Park finally testified in open hearings last Feb. 28.
Park told the committee he gave close to a million dollars to over more than 30 present and former members of Congress.
After hearing from Park and other witnesses and completing the investigation, the committee early this month cited four congressmen for ethical indiscretions, and cleared 10 others, including O'Neill, who received gifts and was given parties by Park.
The congressmen cited were Rep. John J. McFall (D-Calif.), Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Calif.), and Rep. Charles H. Wilson (D-Calif.), who all took between $500 and $4,000 in cash from Park.
Park gave most of his money to former representatives Richard T. Hanna (D-Calif.) and Otto E. Passman (D-La.). Hanna is serving a jail term after pleading guilty to accepting more than $200,000 from Park. Passman is awaiting trial on tax evasion and related charges.