Ship Husbanding Firm's CEO Pleads Guilty to Bribery Charge

USNS Charles Drew (file image)

Published May 4, 2020 7:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

The owner and CEO of a Korean ship husbanding company, DK Marine, pled guilty Friday in an American court for his role in a bribery conspiracy.

Sung Yol “David” Kim, 49, a citizen of the Republic of Korea, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery before U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith of the Eastern District of Michigan. Sentencing has been scheduled for this November.

Kim admitted that between October 2013 and January 2014, he conspired with Capt. James Russell Driver III, an American merchant mariner, and another civilian U.S. Navy employee to have DK Marine provide husbanding services for Driver’s ship, the auxiliary USNS Charles Drew. The alleged interaction occurred in releation to a December 2013 port visit in Chinhae, South Korea, and was allegedly in violation of U.S. Navy husbanding procedures. 

During his tenure as captain of the USNS Drew from 2011-2014, Driver allegedly sent confidential copies of the ship's schedules and bids provided by competing ship husbandry companies to Kim. His alleged attempt to provide business to DK Marine ran counter to an existing Navy contract giving preference to a different firm. 

In exchange, Capt. Driver allegedly received train tickets, hotel stays and an iPad for one of his children at Kim's expense. Driver also sought the possibility of a job with DK Marine after his retirement from federal service, and he was allegedly led to believe that this was a possibility. 

Under the terms of Capt. Driver's guilty plea, prosecutors dropped additional charges of honest service fraud and bribery, which would have carried the potential for a multi-year prison term. Prosecutors requested a light sentence "based on Driver’s substantial assistance to the government." 

The director of operations at the Military Sealift Command office in Busan, South Korea at the time of Driver's offense was described in court documents as an unindicted co-conspirator. 

The DK Marine case is the second recent corruption case involving an Asian ship husbanding firm with U.S. Navy contracts. The first - the sprawling Glenn Defense Marine Asia scandal - implicated dozens of Navy officials and resulted in multiple criminal prosecutions, including an exceptionally rare criminal charge for a flag officer.