It seems as if not a day passes by without Food and Drug Safety Minister Ryu Young-jin getting caught in one scandal or another.
Already rapped for his lack of expertise in dealing with the scandal over pesticide-tainted eggs, Ryu has come under fire over allegedly abusing his power to ask a ministry staff to run his errands.
It was just a couple of days ago that Kim was criticized for taking an inappropriate leave while the nation was in the middle of the egg turmoil and using a company credit card on holidays.
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His alleged abuse of power was revealed by a news report by conservative TV Chosun, which traced back where exactly he spent his company’s credit card. According to the report, a ministry official responsible for equipment purchase used the card in Seoul, not in Osong, North Chungcheong Province, where the ministry is located.
She made four purchases in Seoul using the card, all of them for buying snacks for Ryu, the report said.
Ryu류영진 reportedly asked the ministry employee, who is a resident of Gangseo District in Seoul, to buy some bread at Ryu’s favorite bakery in Yeouido, the report said. The employee ran his errands on Sunday and delivered it to Ryu’s office in Osong on Monday, the report said.
“He made her run errands every week. This reminds us of ‘bread shuttle,’ the slang that rebellious teenagers use,” the reporter of the TV Chosun commented. The “bread shuttle” in Korea refers to a coerced act which stronger students at middle and high schools force the weaker ones to buy them bread for a snack.
Prompted by the news report, the opposition Liberty Korea Party urged Ryu to step down, saying, “Minister Ryu, who spent his leisure time amid the pesticide-tainted egg scandal, asked a ministry official to do ‘bread shuttle’ from Seoul to Osong every weekend.”
The ministry said the report was groundless, vowing to appeal to the Press Arbitration Commission strongly.
“It was a false report with distorted facts,” the ministry said in a statement, revealing the bread purchase details. “The ministry official has been working as a secretary in the former minister’s term. She would buy snacks, including bread, to serve visitors. It is not true that the incumbent minister asked her to run his errands and buy a snack on holiday.”
The ministry also said that the credit card used for bread purchase was not for the minister’s work but the ministry’s equipment purchase and operation.
“The ministry official lives in Seoul and commutes to Osong in early Monday morning, and she seems to have bought the bread on Sunday. It was her personal choice for convenience, not because of the minister’s abuse of power,” the ministry said.
Minister Ryu used to live in Busan, neither well aware of the Yeouido district in Seoul nor enjoy eating bread, it said.