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[Editorial] Lessons From Taekwang Scandal

Posted September. 17, 2009 08:37,   


Former Taekwang Industrial Chairman Park Yeon-cha faces 42 months in prison and 30 billion won (24.84 million U.S. dollars) in fines after being convicted of bribing politicians and government officials and evading taxes. A Korean court found him guilty of giving bribes exceeding seven billion won (5.79 million U.S. dollars) to 19 people, including former Nonghyup Bank President Chung Dae-geun and former presidential secretary for general affairs Jung Sang-moon.

Park handed over the bribes in won, 100 U.S. dollar notes, or gift certificates to cover up his tracks. For this reason, prosecutors had difficulty finding clear evidence through tracking the flow of bank checks. The court, however, gave credibility to the consistent statements of Park and people around him, his diary containing memos, and what he said on the phone. Those who give bribes are punished less severely than those who receive them, but Park failed to avoid prison since he received many favors in exchange for giving bribes.

Prosecutors did not go after Park on the charge of bribing the late former President Roh Moo-hyun and his family. Roh’s family was suspected of taking 6.4 million dollars from Park. Park also allegedly gave two luxury watches worth 100 million won (82,000 dollars) each to Roh and his wife. It cannot be seen that Park told the truth only to other politicians and officials while he lied about Roh’s family. Though Roh’s suicide took away the opportunity to find the truth, had he been prosecuted for receiving bribes, he would have been convicted given the ruling that came this time.

Provocative media reports said many newspapers and broadcasters reported that the bribes Roh received led him to suicide. Given this ruling, Roh was not ensnared. The media are supposed to cover his bribery charges because they are the center of public attention.

Roh and former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian have a lot in common: they were born to a poor family, became lawyers, and experienced criminal probes after leaving office. Chen was sentenced to life imprisonment Friday for receiving bribes and embezzling confidential state funds while president. Chen said to the court, “My wife received and kept the bribes, so I don’t know,” but he could not dodge severe punishment. A head of state must be able to answer any question with confidence after leaving office. This is a lesson that the events in Korea and Taiwan should teach.

With the debut of the 50,000 won bill in Korea, fears are growing that receiving bribes has grown easier. This ruling reminds us that even cash cannot get around the law.