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Korean officials found guilty of forgery but avoid jail

By Narae Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Two South Korean government officials were handed suspended six-month prison sentences on Friday after they were found guilty of forging documents for southern city Gwangju's successful bid to host the 2019 World Aquatics Championships.

Last September, bidding committee director Kim Yoon-seok and a female official identified by the surname Han were indicted for forging the signatures of former prime minister Kim Hwang-sik and former culture minister Choe Kwang-sik in documents that guaranteed government aid for the event.

The prosecution had demanded jail sentences of up to one-and-a-half years for the pair.

"Although we found the defendants guilty, we took into consideration that they did not act upon their personal interests or greed and the forged documents were immediately replaced causing no additional harm," the Gwangju District Prosecutors' Office said in a statement after the verdict.

"We also took into account their effort to win the bids to host the 2015 Gwangju Universiade as well as the Aquatics Championships and the request from the president of FINA to give favorable consideration (to the defendants)," it added.

FINA is the global administrator of aquatic sports.

Last month, lawmaker Kim Jae-won of the ruling Saenuri Party proposed a bill that requires local governments to gain National Assembly approval before they bid for international sporting events costing 10 billion won ($9.31 million) or more.

"This is what happens when we do not control excessive competition among local governments to host international sports events," the secretary of lawmaker Kim told Reuters.

"This bill is designed to keep them in check and prevent incidents like this one from recurring."

($1 = 1073.95 won)

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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