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15 Billion Scandal, Reason for Continuing Independent Counsel Investigation

15 Billion Scandal, Reason for Continuing Independent Counsel Investigation

Posted June. 18, 2003 22:03,   


Former Hyundai Securities chairman Lee Ik-chi officially stated before the Independent Counsel that Park Ji-won received 15 billion from Hyundai at around the general election in April of 2000. Park Ji-won was the Minister of Culture and Tourism at the time. He however, was not just another government minister. He commanded the status of the most powerful henchman in the Kim Dae Jung administration.

During that time, the Hyundai Group was maneuvering at that time to monopolize on business projects with North Korea, which were conceived by the Kim administration. His statements truly shock us.

It suffices to change the whole direction of the investigation of the Counsel. Provided that Lee`s statement is true, what Kim Dae-jung and his men have argued so far has turned out to be a total lie. They have alleged that the secret wiring of the huge amount of money to Kim Jong-il was for national security purposes and, thus, Kim Dae-jung should be granted immunity from the ongoing investigation. The whole case was simply a bribery case where an administration asked for an astronomical amount of money from a company in return for guarantees of monopoly.

Millennium Democrats have urged President Roh to wrap up the ongoing investigation as soon as possible. They are vehemently opposed to extension of the investigation. Now, with this scandal getting larger and larger, they are finding little excuse for their demands.

As the scandal has it, if Park took that huge bribe, taking advantage of the secrecy underlying the North-South relationship, and tried to cover it up in the name of national security, no South Korean would ever forgive him. It is this scandal that the Independent Counsel should intensively look into.

Another issue concerning the scandal is the whereabouts of the 15 billion won. The Kim Dae-jung administration handed over 500 billion to Kim Jong-il. Why then, did they give an additional 15 billion won? Our common sense does not understand the need for this additional money. It may not have been given to Kim Jong-il. It may have ended up somewhere in South Korea or even in the personal safe of Park Ji-won.

Kim Dae-jung, in a recent interview, said: "I feel sorry for my men. They did everything they could without personally pocketing any money." We wonder however whether Kim could say the same when this huge scandal was uncovered. No one, including Kim Dae-jung himself and the Millennium Democrats, should say anything that might influence the pending investigation.

It is up to the judgment of the Independent Counsel whether to extend the investigation period. In this respect, fierce opposition from Millennium Democrats does not sound very legitimate in any sense.

In the very least, South Koreans have the right to know who`s telling the truth. Park is categorically denying involvement in the scandal, while Lee is making one worse as time goes on. If we leave it as it is, we should not have appointed the Counsel to begin with.

If Millennium Democrats succeed in smothering the investigation, we should appoint another counsel to get to the bottom of this ever-increasing and ever-dirtier scandal.