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Former S. Korean diplomat in Russia under probe over embezzlement

SEOUL, Oct. 28 — A former senior South Korean diplomat in Russia has been under a probe by prosecutors on suspicion of embezzling tens of millions of won of the government's budget, the Seoul prosecution and the culture ministry said on Friday.

Ryu Min, 53, is suspected of pocketing about US$ 51,714 between 2008 and March this year when he worked as a councilor in charge of public relations at the South Korean Embassy in Russia and later as the chief of the Korean Cultural Center in the country, according to the ministry.

Yoo created the slush fund by overstating the pay of temporary workers he hired and misappropriating part of the government budget for promoting the Korean culture abroad, it said.

Prosecutors said they questioned him over the allegations on Wednesday and plan to put him to legal punishment if the allegations are confirmed true.

In April, the ministry, tipped off from other officials in the cultural center, conducted an on-site probe into the corruption case and reported Yoo to the prosecution for a criminal investigation a month later.

Yoo, while being questioned by prosecutors, admitted to creating a slush fund but claimed to have spent the money for public purposes, not private purposes, according to prosecution sources.

His case was the latest in a series of gossip involving former and incumbent Korean diplomats abroad.

Earlier this month, the foreign ministry said its Germany-based senior diplomat had been investigated by German police on suspicions of causing a car accident under the influence of alcohol in Berlin. His identity was not released by the ministry, but local newspapers later identified him as the incumbent chief of the Korean Cultural Center in the European country.

The diplomat insisted that his car's sudden start caused the accident, but an officer who was on the scene claimed to detect the odor of alcohol on him, according to the ministry.

In a press briefing, Seo Kang-soo, chief of the Korean Culture and Information Service in charge of the Korean cultural centers, pledged efforts to prevent any recurrence of similar cases.

"We'll do our best to make sure such an incident never happens again by thoroughly supervising the overall management of Korean cultural centers in foreign countries," Seo said. (PNA/Yonhap) scs/rsm

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