(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS photo)
By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) -- A special audit committee of the National Election Commission (NEC) concluded Wednesday that possible irregularities were detected in the employment of children of four senior officials and will request an investigation.
The election watchdog has come under fire after suspicions arose that children of some senior officials landed agency jobs thanks to the influence of their fathers. The NEC secretary general and his deputy offered to resign last week, though they claimed no wrongdoing.
At least four other similar cases have also been found since.
On Wednesday, the NEC's special audit committee held a meeting and decided to refer four senior officials, including Secretary General Park Chan-jin and Deputy Secretary General Song Bong-sup, to an investigation over the suspicions.
The committee said circumstances were detected that made it difficult to rule out the possibility that the four exercised undue influence in the hiring process of their four children for experienced positions.
Song and Park have consistently rejected the allegations, emphasizing the hiring of their children was done in a fair and transparent manner and that their children received no favors since joining the election agency.
Amid calls from the ruling People Power Party (PPP) for him to step down and take responsibility for what it calls "daddy chance," NEC Chairman Rho Tae-ak once again offered an apology for the allegations.
"I sincerely apologize," Rho told a press conference.
Roh, however, reiterated he has no intention to resign.
The PPP has reportedly suggested a state inspection into the snowballing allegations, to which Rho expressed his willingness to comply.
Rho said the agency has devised various reform measures, including opening the secretary general position to external candidates, which had previously been limited to internal candidates for the past 35 years.
Additionally, the NEC plans to either scrap or reduce hiring for experienced positions.
Rho also said the NEC will conduct a joint investigation with an independent outside agency to probe all incumbent and former officials for possible irregularities related to the hiring of their children.