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[Opinion] Chief Lee’s Lies?

Posted June. 14, 2007 07:26,   


Pinocchio is symbolic of a liar. He cannot run far way because he has short legs. He is easily exposed to others because his nose gets longer when he lies. The story of Pinocchio teaches us the lesson that you cannot get away with a lie.

It seems that in the ancient Greece, people were very tolerant of lies. Plato considered lying skills as a clever man’s ability. Socrates said those telling practical lies were better than those who were honest but ignorant.

Today, the lies of public officials are critically judged, especially in advanced countries. In U.S. history, there are several presidents who suffered political crises and humiliations, and some even saw impeachment motions filed. A case in point is Richard Nixon, who resigned right before he was impeached because of the infamous “Water gate scandal.” Another example is current President Bush, who staged the Iraq war for the cause of weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be non-existent. Bill Clinton’s crisis was when his sex scandal with a White House intern erupted. John F. Kennedy was held accountable when he temporarily lied during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The court ruling regarding the so-called, “leak gate” issue reminds us that lies of public officials are a serious crime. Lewis Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, accused of leaking the classified identity of a covert agent of the CIA to a New York Times journalist was sentenced to 30 months in prison on perjury charges. Judge Walton said, "Anybody at that high-level of a position had a unique and special obligation before they said anything about anything. I think it is important we expect and demand a lot from people who take positions in our government. If those who put themselves in those positions fail to meet the bar, the government loses trust from the public.” Libby’s lawyers asked the court to consider his service to his country, but the judge ruled that the lie of the high-ranking official outweighed his public service record and punished him accordingly.

A series of lies related to the Hanwha scandal that National Police Agency Chief Lee Taek-soon made are being revealed. He initially said he had never met with anyone from Hanwha. But it turned out that he had contacted a senior member of Hanwha, who was also his high school friend, exchanged phone calls and text messages with him, and played golf together. The amount of public attention is even higher in this case because he also triggered conflicts inside the police agency by launching a prosecution investigation of the scandal, a conduct viewed by police officials as breaching the autonomy of the police.

Yuk Jeong-soo, Editorial Writer, sooya@donga.com