Posted April. 09, 2009 08:14,
The investigation into the bribery scandal involving Taekwang Industry Chairman Park Yeon-cha has resulted in the previous Roh Moo-hyun government losing its moral ground. The probe is expanding to include Roh, his wife and family. Prosecutors appear determined to investigate corruption involving those who served the previous administration. So it is a mystery why they are dragging their feet in probing suspected lobbying by Taekwang in July and October last year to the National Tax Service in an apparent bid to avoid a tax audit.
Park is suspected of attempting to end a tax audit into his company by mobilizing the former presidents elder brother Roh Gun-pyeong and influential figures close to the incumbent administration. Strangely, only one person, Choo Boo-kil, who served as presidential secretary for public relations from February to June last year, has been arrested in this probe. Choo is suspected of taking 200 million won (144,655 U.S. dollars) from Park.
Choo testified to prosecutors that Rep. Lee Sang-deuk, President Lee Myung-baks elder brother, rejected Choo`s request for a favor. Choo also conveyed a request from Roh Gun-pyeong that authorities not investigate families of presidents past and present to lawmakers close to President Lee. Rep. Lee Sang-deuk denied the allegation, saying, I never took a call and never met (Choo). Another lawmaker close to President Lee said, I was asked for a favor but I just forgot about it. It is difficult to believe that all suspicions have been cleared just because the people in question have denied the accusations.
Those suspected of irregularities in connection with Park include Lee Jong-chan, former presidential secretary for civil affairs who borrowed hundreds of millions of won from Park via his younger brother in 2003, and Sejoong Tour Mall Chairman Chun Shin-il, who is President Lees college classmate. Former National Tax Service Commissioner Han Sang-ryule, who was probably the final target of Parks lobbying, abruptly left for the U.S. March 15 just before the probe began into politicians and government officials. Han directed the tax audit of Taekwang but resigned in January this year after allegations surfaced that he gave paintings in return for influencing personnel decisions.
A probe into illegal lobbying aimed at halting a tax audit into Taekwang will inevitably face limits unless Han is questioned. Han might have decided to flee Korea on his own, or people involved with the case could have pressured him to leave. If prosecutors really intend to get to the bottom of the case, they should extradite Han and begin probing people over whom suspicions have been raised.
If prosecutors seek to cover up corruption committed by the incumbent government while thoroughly investigating irregularities committed by the previous one, they will face a humiliating backlash such as the introduction of an independent investigation. For prosecutors to help those in power remain vigilant, they should demonstrate their will to probe suspicions into illicit lobbying aimed at dodging the tax audit.