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Ex-Pres. Roh Violated Gov`t Ethics Act

Posted April. 09, 2009 08:14,   


Former President Roh Moo-hyun`s admission that his wife borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a businessman to repay debt can be understood as a violation of the Ethics in Government Act.

Roh should have reported his debt at least once among the five instances of making asset disclosures while president.

Prosecutors said yesterday that Roh’s wife Kwon Yang-sook received money from Taekwang Industry CEO Park Yeon-cha between 2005 and 2006 while Roh was in office. Roh failed to report the borrowed money to the Government Employees Ethics Committee, and records of his asset disclosure do not back his argument that he had debt.

Roh’s personal assets increased from 472 million won (349,112 U.S. dollars) to 972 million won (718,935 dollars) while he was president. Kwon was 164 million won (121,302 dollars) in debt as of December 2006 mainly because of a loan to make a payment on a new apartment, according to Roh`s asset disclosure in March 2007.

For his part, Roh reported he borrowed 10 million won (7,396 dollars) from a bank shortly after his inauguration in 2003. He also borrowed 467 million won (345,414 dollars) from financial institutions under his name to build his post-retirement home in the village of Bongha in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province.

Given that, Roh apparently needs to give a more plausible explanation of his wife`s debt. His former chief secretary Moon Jae-in said, “Roh seemed to have debts as he had a long political career and given the long time for Roh to become a lawmaker.”

This means Roh`s debt was incurred before his presidency, but this notion makes no sense. According to his 2004 asset disclosure, Roh sold his home in Seoul`s downtown district of Myeongryun-dong for 450 million won (332,840 dollars) and used 190 million won (140,533 dollars) of the money to repay debt.

Considering the 260 million won (192,308 dollars) he had left over after selling his home and the growth of his assets by about 500 million won (369,822 dollars) over the following four years, the explanation that he needed to borrow the money from Park to repay his debt seems implausible.

Even if he did have debt, Roh still violated the Ethics in Government Act. According to the act, government officials who omit assets in official disclosures will face a warning, a fine and disciplinary punishment including dismissal.

Roh faces no punishment for violating the act since he is out of office, but cannot avoid harsh criticism that he violated the law while president.