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[Opinion] Choi Byung-ryul’s Notebook

Posted November. 05, 2007 03:11,   


With the presidential election less than 50 days away, there are growing concerns about a notebook written by Choi Byung-ryul, former GNP chairman, which is believed to contain details of the 2002 presidential election fund.

The former party chairman allegedly recorded in his notebook how the remaining 15.4 billion won out of the 84.7 billion won the GNP received from large conglomerates for the 2002 presidential election fund was used.

The former party chairman has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the notebook. Grand National Party Secretary General Lee Bang-ho, however, argued that he himself saw the contents of the notebook revealing the whereabouts of the remnants of the fund in detail.

GNP lawmaker Park Hui-tae also appeared on television next day and stated that he was aware of the suspicions over the political funds raised when he served as the party leader in the first half of 2003. Some say that former GNP leader Choi revealed a black notebook when he was interviewed by a local newspaper last May, and that it is the notebook in question. Others doubt the existence of such a written document, saying that the former party leader has never used a notebook.

Whenever any allegations have surfaced concerning the notebook, Choi has had no comment. However, he once clarified himself by saying, “Former GNP leader Lee Hoi-chang said that he should take all the responsibility for the illegal fund raising, and would even go to jail. I believe that now is the time.” These remarks came when he delivered a lecture in a debate in February 2004, when the prosecutors’ investigation into possible fundraising impropriety by Lee Hoi-chang and President Roh’s camp were in full swing. At that time, many in and around the party said that he made the audacious remarks since he knew what the 15.4 billion won was used for through Seo Jeong-u, then an attorney close to Lee camp.

We have no idea what impact the “notebook scandal” will have on the upcoming presidential election, but it cannot be just dismissed as trivial. The prosecution concluded an investigation in 2004, saying that, “The GNP has used only 1.6 billion won for the party, returning the remaining 13.8 billion won to the companies that gave it.”

Unlike the prosecution’s announcement, if the GNP never returned the money and misappropriated the 15.4 billion won for itself, the prosecutors’ office should reinvestigate into the case. Choi Byung-ryul’s notebook could blow up in the faces of GNP candidate Lee Myung-bak and former party leader Lee Hoi-chang. Depending on the investigation timing, the issue of President Roh’s fund raising and use of his congratulatory fund after taking office could throw the political arena into turmoil.

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