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The Korean government opened parliamentary hearings into the Hanbo bribes-for-loans scandal Monday with a dramatic testimony from the company's founder Chung Tai-soo.

Chung was cross examined inside the prison where he is currently serving sentence

His company is accused of bribing politicians to grant massive bank loans well in excess of his company's requirements.

It's the first time parliamentary hearings have taken place INSIDE a Korean prison.

The detailed cross examination of the man at the heart of Korea's biggest ever scandal was also broadcast live on national TV.

Chairman of the investigative committee, Hyun Kyung-dae, led the 18 member panel which got the hearings underway.

Chung Tai-soo is founder and patriarch of Hanbo Business Group.

He is accused of playing a key role in the bribes-for-loans scandal, which flared up following the collapse of Hanbo Steel Company in January.

Chung alleged to have swung up to dlrs 6 billion in bank loans for his company.

That's far more than he was entitled to, given the corporation's mediocre credit rating.

Much of this money is suspected to have been handed straight to politicians as bribes.

"During an election campaign, members of the finance committee do give more money.... the amount never exceeds more than 1,000,000,000 won (dlrs 1.1 million.)"
SUPER CAPTION: Chung Tai-soo, Founder of the Hanbo Business Group

At Mondays' hearing, Chung claimed that part of the money that he is being accused of embezzling, in fact went towards paying off his company's interest bills.

"Interest payments were about 15,000,000,000,000 won.( US dollars 1.7(b) billion)"
SUPER CAPTION: Chung Tai-soo, Founder of the Hanbo Business Group

Chung is a diabetes sufferer, and he struggled throughout the hearing - at one point stopping to sip medicine.

But his failing health didn't save him from a barrage of aggressive questioning.

Assemblymen were frustrated and even angry with Chung's evasive answers.

He repeatedly claimed ignorance or refused to comment because another case is still in court.

Elsewhere in Seoul, people were glued to their TV sets, as they watched the drama unfold.

"His answers from start to finish is 'I don't know'. This isn't convincing. He must tell the truth."

South Koreans hope the hearings will be successful in unveiling the whole truth.

But many remain sceptical as to whether the investigation panel will be able to crack such a stubborn defendant.

You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/33a7a73a097bd1415108c02fa6fd8e90
Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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