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[Editorial] Political Meddling in Taekwang Scandal

Posted March. 24, 2009 09:40,   


As prosecutors expanded their probe into the bribery scandal of Taekwang Industry Chairman Park Yeon-cha, rumors spread that many key officials of the incumbent administration and top prosecutors took money from Park. He is also rumored to have stepped up his lobbying after a tax audit on his company began in July last year. The names of a lawyer who served as a senior presidential secretary of the administration, businessmen with connections with top government officials and former high-ranking tax figures have been mentioned by media. The word on the street is that several leading prosecutors might also be implicated. Consequently, people are watching closely over whether prosecutors can get to the heart of the scandal without influence from internal and external powers.

Whenever a new administration took office, Park had a knack for reaching out to the most influential figures. If he was daring enough to give 100 million to 200 million won (71,890 to 143,781 U.S. dollars) to Choo Boo-kil, ex-public relations secretary for President Lee, Park most likely devoted himself to building connections with key figures in the administration, the presidential office and prosecutors. If a former senior presidential secretary-turned lawyer gave up taking Park’s case at the request of the presidential office, the administration could have sensed trouble beforehand.

The case should not be closed simply with Choo’s arrest. All officials from the incumbent administration implicated should be rounded up. An internal investigation was halted on Park’s alleged acquisition of Huchems Fine Chemical (a subsidiary of Nonghyup Bank) at below-market price. The probe had begun in May last year immediately before the tax audit. Park was arrested several months later in November, when the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office finally resumed the probe. Something smells fishy.

If prosecutors try to politically compromise probes into the administration while strictly expanding its probe into a former president’s top aides or things related to the former administration, it could one day be humiliated with a reinvestigation or a probe by an independent prosecutor. More people were highly likely involved in the scandal given Park’s connections, wealth and lobbying history.

It is in the interest of the administration’s future for investigators to get to the heart of the scandal as soon as possible. No one can keep their involvement a secret forever. The administration should remove any convicted members once found. The opposition party should also cooperate with the investigation rather than condemning it as “unfair and targeted probe into the opposition party.”