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How Can Prime Minister Lee Make a Slip of Tongue over President Roh’s Health Matter?

How Can Prime Minister Lee Make a Slip of Tongue over President Roh’s Health Matter?

Posted May. 24, 2005 03:36,   


Regarding Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan’s remark in which he said, “President Roh Moo-hyun has a back pain,” Cheong Wa Dae clarified President Roh’s current condition on May 23.

During a regular briefing on the afternoon of the same day, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Man-soo flatly denied “speculation of President Roh’s back pain” by saying, “President Roh completed making his tight tour of foreign countries in the second half of last year without any pains,” adding, “He has presided over meetings that require two to three hours more than twice a day.”

Spokesman Kim also suggested that Cheong Wa Dae grasped the background of prime minister’s remarks in its own way, saying, “It seems that Prime Minister Lee delivered what President Roh mentioned his back pain in an exaggerated manner like a joke during his conversation with Prime Minister Lee in comfort to others.”

In response to the continuous question, “Since Prime Minister Lee mentioned the president’s health thoughtlessly, which is related with national security, isn’t it necessary to take some action against him?” spokesman Kim declined to comment, saying, “Let’s finalize this issue,” and he added, “Such a remark won’t happen again.”

However, it seems that concerning Prime Minister Lee uttered a fact that is far from the truth, and even if it turns out to be true, he mentioned President Roh’s health matter which can be related with national security, Cheong Wa Dae officials are feeling uneasy.

The prime minister’s office also reportedly expressed its regret by admitting that Prime Minister Lee’s remark was not proper.

President Roh’s family doctor Song In-seong, a professor of the Medical College at Seoul National University, revealed, “President Roh is very healthy and his back disk has almost completely cured enough that he doesn’t need another operation.” He added, “President Roh has received physical therapy since his operation and because not only his pain, but also the part of his operation, has improved, he has even stopped his physical therapy.”

While having dinner on May 20 with reporters who cover the prime minister’s office in the official residency of the prime minister in Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Prime Minister Lee said, “President Roh can’t sit on a chair for more than an hour due to his back pain, to my knowledge, if he plays golf, his back pain seems to last for two weeks, and it seems that his disk operation was not perfect.”

President Roh, who had suffered from his back ache, underwent his back operation on January 30 in 2003, when he was the president-elect, and has constantly had physical therapy since then.

22. Six Public Companies` Profit Plunges

Some public companies financed by the government recorded disappointing annual results last year.

According to the "Financial Performance Report of Public Companies Financed by the Government," submitted by the Ministry of Finance and Economy to the Board of Audit and Inspection on May 23. The profit of six out of 13 public companies decreased by 31.7 percent on average in 2004, compared to that in 2003.

Those companies are: Korea Water Resources Corporation, Korea Highway Corporation, Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency, Korea Resources Corporation, Korea Agricultural & Rural Infrastructure Corporation, and Korea National Tourism Organization.

The main reasons for the decreased profit, the companies explained, are increased cost, decreased earnings, lower interest rate, and increased bonus. Korea Water Resources Organization saw its cost of sales increased by 11.1 percent from 1.088 trillion in 2003 to 1.2086 trillion won in 2004 as profit fell due to the ongoing land sales business in the Sihwa district in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province.

Korea Highway Corporation`s earnings in the highway rest area business fell by 1.3 billion won to 87.4 billion won in 2004, and the cost of constructing new rest areas also contributed to the outcome.

Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency`s profit fell by 70.1 percent as the amount of accumulated annual bonus for its employees increased from 350 percent of monthly income in 2003 to 500 percent in 2004. KOTRA explained that the raise in annual bonus in 2004 was due to the excellent results of business evaluation among public companies.

Korea Resources Corporation`s profit fell as the interest rate of loan for mining companies fell by 1.25 percent.

Korea Electric Power Corporation, Korea National Oil Corporation, and Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation recorded increased profits as the decreased dollar-won ratio led to increased foreign exchanges-converted profit.

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com