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Ruling Party Lets Ambassador Hong Voluntarily Resign

Posted July. 25, 2005 03:04,   


The ruling Uri Party decided on July 24 to let Hong Seok-hyun, the Korean ambassador to the United States, voluntarily step down in an effort to mitigate the recent controversy over presidential campaign funding. A transcript of the National Security Planning Agency (NSPA), the predecessor of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), disclosed that Hong had been involved in Samsung’s offering of presidential campaign funds back in 1997.

“How to solve the scandal regarding the NSPA transcript is not up to Cheong Wa Dae. Expectations are that Hong would voluntarily decide to resign,” said a senior official of the governing party in a telephone interview with the Dong-A Ilbo.

“Public opinion is so unfavorable that we can no longer sit idly by and leave the scandal as it is,” hinted another key official of the ruling party.

On July 23, Chang Young-dal, a standing member of the Uri Party’s central committee, stated on a television program that he was “concerned until when Hong could serve as an ambassador,” adding that it would be “the wisest for Hong to decide his next course of action for himself.”

In a meeting with the press on July 24, Moon Seok-ho, chairman of the Third Policy Coordination Committee of the same party, urged the ambassador to voluntarily leave office, saying that “[Hong] should take responsibility at a time when the situation has gone this far.” Chairman Chung Jang-seon of the Fourth Policy Coordination Committee also claimed in a telephone interview with the Dong-A Ilbo, “It would be desirable for Hong to reveal the truth about contents of the transcript and decide what to do as soon as possible.”

On the morning of July 25, Cheong Wa Dae will hold a meeting of presidential secretaries for political affairs under the presidency of Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Woo-sik to have an in-depth discussion over the issue. The meeting will be followed by another meeting of presidential secretaries and advisors presided over by President Roh Moo-hyun. This raises a possibility that the President might dismiss the ambassador by accepting suggestions from his aides.

Cheong Wa Dae had maintained until July 23, “A ‘verification process’ is needed to discuss whether or not to dismiss Hong,” but it seems obvious that the presidential office is changing course.

Jung-Hun Kim In-Jik Cho jnghn@donga.com cij1999@donga.com