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Former Hyundai President`s Returning Facilitates Investigation

Former Hyundai President`s Returning Facilitates Investigation

Posted April. 22, 2003 22:26,   


Independent Counsel Song Doo-hwan has announced that his office will subpoena key figures such as Lee Geun-young (former chairman of Korea Industrial Bank) and Park Sang-bae (former vice chairman of KIB) in connection with the Kim Dae-jung administration`s secret checkbook diplomacy scandal. Former Hyundai Marine Merchant president Kim Choong-sik, yet another key player staying in the United States, has informed the independent counsel`s office that he will come back to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. Therefore, the investigation is being accelerated.

When asked when to summon former chairman Lee and others, Counsel Song told reporters yesterday, "You will have the answer soon," indicating the subpoena would be made out in the near future. Another source familiar with the case confirmed, "Everything`s going as planned."

In the meanwhile, former Hyundai president Kim notified the investigation team that he would fully cooperate with the investigation.

Kim did not sign the loan applications, and remarked as to the loan payment, "It is not Hyundai, but the Kim Dae-jung administration that should pay back the loan." Therefore, once he comes back from America, he is believed to tell much about the loan fraud and the secret diplomacy scandal.

In the meanwhile, former KIB vice chairman Chung Chul-cho reversed his previous statement yesterday. Two days ago, he supported former chairman Um Nak-yong`s contention that former Chief of Staff Han pulled the strings to have Hyundai Marine Merchant obtain the loan. Yesterday, however, he said, "Hyundai was in hot water at that time. So, chairman Lee and Chief of Staff Han talked a lot about it. Nothing more, nothing less. It had nothing to do with the loan."

Former chairman Lee and Han have alleged that they had never talked with each other as to the loan.

South Koreans, however, would not buy their excuse. Presidential Chief of Staff and a head of a bank were and are not in such a relationship as to necessitate frequent phone conversations. Consequently, more and more South Koreans begin to suspect that something was truly wrong.

If, as alleged by Han and Lee, Hyundai was suffering severely from the dwindling cash flow in June of 2000, it was presidential economic aide Lee Kee-ho who should have handled the matter. It was bizarre and unimaginable for the Chief of Staff to get himself involved and talk directly with KIB head to resolve the matter. Therefore, numerous financial experts believe some other reason necessitated their frequent discussion.

Independent Counsel Song is leaning against the excuse. Song believes that, as pointed out by financial specialists, it was impossible for the KIB to lend additional 400 billion in violation of the law without pressure or aiding and abetting on the part of the Kim Dae-jung administration.

The independent counsel office reportedly secured statements of former KIB employees, who handled the loan process, supporting the "pressure theory".

Jin-Kyun Kil Do-Young Kim leon@donga.com nirvana1@donga.com