(LEAD) Ex-first lady sues ruling party lawmaker over India trip accusation

SEOUL, Former first lady Kim Jung-sook, the wife of ex-President Moon Jae-in, on Monday filed a defamation suit against a ruling party lawmaker over alleging Kim misappropriated taxpayer money to fund her solo trip to India in 2018.

According to a text message sent to reporters by the main opposition Democratic Party’s Rep. Yoon Kun-young, Kim filed the suit against Rep. Bae Hyun-jin of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) with police, charging Bae of distributing false information and defamation.

Bae issued a press release last month claiming that Kim’s trip incurred a cost of some 230 million won (US$166,400) for using a presidential aircraft during her four-day solo visit to India.

Of that, the two-term lawmaker claimed Kim and her delegation spent over 62 million won on in-flight meals alone and criticized them for having lavish meals with taxpayers’ money.

Kim’s trip recently became a heated topic of political strife. It was the first time in 16 years that a South Korean first lady had made a foreign
visit without the president.

Earlier this month, Do Jong-hwan, a former minister of culture who led the delegation at the time, disclosed a copy of the invitation Moon received from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Members of the PPP have called for a special counsel probe into Kim, which the opposition has accused of being an attempt to “water down” issues regarding allegations that the current first lady Kim Keon Hee illegally received a luxury handbag as a gift in 2022.

Separately, prosecutors have begun an investigation into a complaint raised by Lee Jong-bae, a Seoul city councilor affiliated with the PPP, over the allegations linked to Kim’s trip.

The councilor accused the former first lady of abuse of power and loss to the national coffers related to her India trip, arguing Kim wasted 400 million won in state funds for her junket to the Taj Mahal in India.

Prosecutors are also expected to investigate other allegations involving Kim, including acceptance of a luxury jacket and swimming lessons
taken from a presidential guard, as Lee filed simultaneous complaints over those suspicions.

Source: Yonhap News Agency