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[Editorial]Anything Hidden Behind Scandal Around Rep. Chang Bok-sim?

[Editorial]Anything Hidden Behind Scandal Around Rep. Chang Bok-sim?

Posted July. 02, 2004 22:11,   


The prosecution reportedly began a secret investigation over a suspicion that Representative Chang Bok-sim of the ruling Uri party lobbied members of the party before the designation of proportional representatives during the April 15 general elections. If the pro-reform Uri party is found to have repeated old practices by providing proportional representative seats in return for money at the back, the Party’s misdeeds cannot be condoned for any reasons. The ruling party must tell the truth and take responsibility.

Rep. Chang argued that she gave the money only to sponsor the party, but her acts clearly violate the political fund law, considering that she did not receive receipts for all that she paid. Giving out free jackets to the party leadership when she was a proportional representative candidate is also a violation of the election law that prohibits the provision of free gifts. Although paying 15 million won as a special fee was proven to be technically legal, there is always room for controversy over morality because the act can be translated as lobbying to influence the designation of the candidates. It makes one wonder how Rep. Chang could pay such a great amount of money when she reported only having 24.87 million won worth of assets.

Before the General elections, the Uri Party repeatedly emphasized transparency of nomination. The party insisted that in order to ensure transparency, it designated the same number of people--five from the party and five from outside the party--from within and outside the party as members of the screening committee for proportional representatives. The Uri Party confidently said there would be no money going back and forth for parliamentary seats.

Were these empty promises? True, chronic practices of using billions of won in lobbying for parliamentary seats have greatly disappeared. However, considering that the ruling party is a reformist one, it should be even more clean and transparent than others.

The moral hazard within the ruling party is serious. Even the party’s supporters are turning their backs on the Uri party after the alleged involvement of Minister of Culture and Tourism Chung Dong-chae in the promotion of a professor, and the party’s participation in rejecting a motion of arrest for Rep. Park Chang-dal of the Grand National Party. The public disapproval is reflected well in the support ratings that have nose-dived to the 20 percent range. Victory in the general elections does not automatically ensure morality. The Uri Party can ask for reform only when it imposes stricter standards on itself.

Jae-Ho Lee leejaeho@donga.com