Tongsun Park (born 1935 in Sunch'ŏn, Korea), also known as Pak Dong-seon, was a South Korean lobbyist. He was involved in two political money-related scandals: Koreagate in the 1970s, and the Oil-for-Food Program scandal of the 2000s. Park had a reputation as the "Asian Great Gatsby".
|Revised Romanization||Bak Dongseon|
In 1976, Park was charged with bribing members of the U.S. Congress, using money from the South Korean government, in a successful effort to convince the United States government to keep United States troops in South Korea. In 1977, he was indicted by a U.S. District Court on thirty-six counts, including bribery, illegal campaign contributions, mail fraud, racketeering, and failure to register as an agent of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. He avoided a federal trial by testifying to the court in exchange for immunity. His testimony did not have a major impact, though it led to three members of Congress getting reprimanded, and may have convinced Speaker of the House Carl Albert not to seek re-election. One of the implicated former representatives, Otto Passman of Louisiana's 5th congressional district based about Monroe, was charged with conspiracy, bribery, acceptance of an illegal gratuity, and income tax evasion. When his trial was moved from Washington, D.C., to Monroe, Passman was quickly acquitted. Explained William G. Hundley, a former organized crime investigator for the U.S. Senate who attended the Passman trial:
I went there for the trial, and I'd go into restaurants with Park, and people would get up and leave. ... I thought the prosecution presented a pretty good case. But when the defense attorney, Camille Gravel, got up to cross-examine Tongsun Park, he carried a big map of Korea. He didn't even tough the merits of the case. He identified South Korea and noted that it's right under North Korea and next to China. Then he pointed out that North Korea and China are totalitarian communist states. The jury was out less than ninety minutes, and they acquitted Passman on every charge.
In 1992, Park was approached by Samir Vincent, an Iraqi-born American who was lobbying unofficially on behalf of the Saddam Hussein regime, to try to create a program that would bypass the United Nations-approved economic sanctions of Iraq that had started in 1991. Park agreed, requesting a payment of US$10 million for his effort, to which Vincent agreed. Park served as a liaison between Vincent and then-United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, with whom Park was friendly. In late 1996, partly as a result of Park's lobbying efforts, the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program began. After 1997, when Kofi Annan became the new secretary-general, the government of Iraq dropped its ties with Park; by then Park had received about US$2 million in payments.
In 2005 Park was accused of acting as an intermediary with corrupt United Nations officials in the oil-for-food conspiracy orchestrated by Saddam Hussein. His name surfaced as part of investigations into the oil-for-food scandal. In July 2006 he was convicted in a U.S. federal court on conspiracy charges. He became the first person convicted through the oil-for-food investigation. On February 22, 2007, he was sentenced to five years in prison. He also was fined $15,000 and required to forfeit $1,200,000. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site, he was released from prison on September 10, 2008. The next day, he left the United States for South Korea.