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The Debate Surrounding Lee Kwang-jae’s Finger Cut

Posted May. 19, 2005 23:32,   


“If you really don’t believe what I am saying, let’s go to the factory where my finger was cut off. I will tell you the whole story at that time in person.” On the morning of April 5, 2003, I headed for Bupyeong in Incheon with Lee Kwang-jae, who currently belongs to the Uri Party. After the inauguration of President Roh, the nation has focused its attention on Ahn Hee-jung and Lee, who emerged as real powerhouses. It was alleged that Lee had cut his finger in order to evade military service.

I, the reporter who used to be in charge of social issues at that time, was not able to find the reason why he had cut his finger despite a month-long effort. Despite many phone calls, I could not contact Mr. Lee. Finally I delivered my idea to Mr. Lee’s wife on March 13, 2003 that Mr. Lee should do express his position on the allegation that he had cut his finger to evade the military service, when his social position was considered.

At 7:00 p.m. on March 22, 2003, I met Lee for the first time at a cafe next to the Sejong Art Center in Jongno-gu in Seoul after two previously cancelled appointments. Lee briefly mentioned the story at that time, but he failed to present any concrete proof to support the story. After the meeting, I met Lee two or three times more, but was not able to obtain any meaningful outcome from the conversation. Lee, with his back against a wall, lamented that “his finger was cut by accident in a factory where he disguised himself as a worker, but it is a pity that he can’t find a way to support his words as there were no witnesses.”

When I requested the address of the factory in order to visit the factory and find some clues, Lee answered that he did not remember the exact address but that he should be able to locate the factory. In the morning of April 5, 2003, Lee, me, and my colleague headed by car for Bupyeong where the factory was allegedly located. In the car, Lee said that he was expelled from the university and got a physical examination in 1985, but that he postponed joining the army twice as his seniors asked him to continue his work with student movements. He worked at a small factory in Bupyeong, where he intended to learn how to operate machines and the characteristics of labor workers before disguising himself as a worker for a conglomerate (Lee called it “Majjiggobang”). According to Lee, the factory where he lost his finger by accident was just like a basement of an ordinary house equipped with a few machines.

He added that “he did not go to a hospital and there were no witnesses.” After several mistakes, they arrived at a town beside an army base. He said that they should make right turn towards a valley beside the army base, mentioning that he had remembered taking a bus at that time. We drove here and there, but Lee could not locate the factory. Lee said, “I cannot locate the factory, as the town has completely changed. It should be here. There used to be a narrow road”

Lee repeatedly told me, “I am sorry.” In the car returning to Seoul, there was almost no conversation between them. I did not think of any questions and was frustrated.

Lee suggested that they go for a drink, and they went to a cafe near Gwanghwamun and drank six bottles of beer. Mr. Lee said, “I am sorry. I also want to prove my words, but I cannot do anything about it. Please trust me. Let’s get together from time to time.” And then he left.

I was only able to meet Lee one more time after that meeting. On May 19, 2005, I saw an article he wrote on Lee’s website saying that he had cut his finger to write in blood on a Korean flag in 1986. If that is the case, why did Lee bring me to Bupyeong two years ago? And how did he refer to cutting his finger in a factory?

Chin-Ku Lee sys1201@donga.com