Probe launched into death of director of Korean firm in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq launched Saturday an investigation into the death of a high-level director of a Korean company implementing a strategic port project in Iraq’s south, after Iraqi lawmakers cast doubt over initial reports deeming the incident a suicide.

Park Chul-Ho, director for the South Korean Daewoo E&C Iraq office implementing the construction of the lucrative Fao port, was found dead Friday morning. His hanging corpse was discovered by a worker in the company compound in the oil-rich province of Basra several kilometers away from the port site.

After multiple officials refuted initial findings that the death had been by suicide, a committee was formed to investigate Park’s death. That committee began work on Saturday, three Iraqi officials said.

The investigation will include surveillance footage retrieved from around the compound, Walid al-Sharif, the mayor of al-Fao district in Basra said.

Hours after his body was discovered the Ministry of Transport, which oversees the port, said Park’s death was a suicide and that his passing would not derail the project, in a statement.

But Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hassan Karim al-Kaabi subsequently submitted a request to the government to conduct a serious investigation into the circumstances surrounding Park’s death.

Al-Kaabi questioned the timing of Park’s death because it had come after an announcement by the Transport Ministry about the imminent signing of a contract regarding the next phase of the Fao port project, he said in comments to state media. Once complete, Iraqi officials hope Fao port will greatly boost Iraq’s economy and provide an alternative to the country’s main commodities port in Umm Qasr.

Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Sadrist Movement, which holds the highest number of seats in Iraq’s parliament, echoed al-Kaabi’s suspicions and demanded that security agencies follow up on the case.

Numerous foreign companies work in the southern province of Basra, primarily in the oil sector.

After the parliament request, the Interior Ministry formed a committee which was then dispatched to Basra to launch the investigation, according to spokesman Saad Maan.

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