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[Opinion] Dilemma of the `Tax Storm`

Posted March. 02, 2002 10:29,   


“Most of the politicians are not free from illegal political funds. Political leaders should confess their illegal political funds to the people and should be pardoned by them.”

It was said at a general meeting of the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) on Feb. 22nd. Confession and pardon . . . In the 40-years history of the FKI, the business circles have never criticized directly the political circles. Although an autocratic development system, which is based on the cozy relations between politics and economics, was already judged by its dysfunction, an `custom` that the business circles have provided political funds is not disappeared. Shon Gil-Seung, the Chairman of the SK Group, said some time ago, ¡°Nowadays, companies provide political funds not to request special favors but to prevent disadvantages.¡° However, now the business circles claim that they will not give funds, even the money to prevent disadvantages.

The business circles` `just claim,` which openly refused to give any illegal political funds, was favorably received by the President and the ruling and opposition parties. But, none of them, even the business circles, believes that the problem of the illegal political funds will be solved by such a simple way. The political circles need at least 450 billion won in this year to hold the local and presidential elections. But, their official income would be 290 billion won, and 160 billion won is short. If the political circles have no guarantee for raising the insufficient amount of funds, the economic circles claim will become in vain.

Except its bad character of abusing the taxation right, the so called `tax storm,` which the Deputy Commissioner of the National Tax Service (NTS) collected 16.6 billion won for the ruling party`s presidential election funds, was a variation of the old custom, the business circles` offering political funds. It does not mean that the `tax storm` needs to be overlooked. The truth should be clearly revealed in order to root out a wrong custom, especially to reform the NTS who privatized the taxation right for the interests of the power group.

It will take a long time. Although former Deputy Commissioner Lee Seok-Hee of the NTS, a key figure of the `tax storm,` was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after two and a half years of escaping in the U.S., it is hard to estimate when he will be extradited to Korea because of the complicate legal procedures. However, the ruling group, who lost people`s support due to the various gates, cannot wait his deportation forever. The power group might be nervous about that whether it will miss a good issue for the presidential election campaign.

For a political use, the point of the `tax storm` is whether president Lee Hoi-Chang, the then presidential candidate of the Grand National Party (GNP), was involved or not. The questions are whether he ordered the fund raising or received a report on the fund raising. The ruling group focuses on the possibility of the latter because, whether it will be proved or not, a probability can give a great blow to Lee Hoi-Chang.

I directly asked former Rep. Suh Sang-Mok of the GNP, another key figure of the `tax storm,` that, “Didn`t Lee know about the fund raising?” Suh said, “The prosecution pressed me that it did not make any sense not reporting such a big amount of fund raising to the president of the party. Therefore, I said that Lee is an odd person on money matter. Although there were complains within the party that how Lee wanted to carry on the campaign without fund raising, he did not want to say anything about money. In addition to his character, I also thought that it would be better for him not to know about the fund raising in terms of his image making. Thus, I did not report the matter to him.”

A directly involved person`s explanation cannot attain a general persuasive power. However, a political attack without any concrete evidence will cause strong opposition, with the claim of `to kill Lee Hoi-Chang.` There is a strong counterattack, `Your political funds should be revealed too.` This is the dilemma of the `tax storm.` The business circles asked the politicians confession and the people`s pardon. A president of a business group said, “The businessmen suffer whenever a government changes.” It implies that the vicious circle of the political funds is not ended yet. To solve this dilemma from its root is also urgent as to reveal the truth of the `tax storm.`

Jeon Jin-Woo (Editorial Member)