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Probe Into Ex-Prime Minister

Posted December. 24, 2009 08:52,   


A court will rule whether Han Myeong-sook took 50,000 U.S. dollars from Kwak Young-wook, former CEO of Korea Express, while serving as prime minister. Yet Han and Kwak’s meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister in December 2006 was far from casual. Kwak allegedly said, “I’m bored” after having resigned from the company, but the attendance of the prime minister and the knowledge economy minister has led to the suspicion that they talked about getting Kwak a new job. The main opposition Democratic Party is condemning the investigation as a political plot to gain the upper hand in next year’s local elections. Those who served under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration have set up “a joint committee on countermeasures to dismantle the political plot” to attract supporters. These acts, however, will not help clarify the truth about this case.

This case is drawing attention because influence peddling for appointments is not a practice found only in past administrations. Nobody can guarantee that this is not happening under the incumbent administration.

President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday, “Eradicating corruption committed by societal leaders, including government officials and senior politicians, is one of several measures aimed to raise national dignity.” It will be fortunate if he can deliver his pledge by the end of his term. The reality is, however, that following his government’s inauguration, several presidential aides and relatives have been suspected of corruption. It is the nature of corruption to infect the heart of political power without the president’s knowledge.

Former President Kim Young-sam, who would eat cheap noodles at the presidential office, became a lame duck halfway through his term due to a corruption scandal involving his son. The three sons of his successor Kim Dae-jung were embroiled in scandals. The late President Roh said after his election in 2002, “If I catch anyone asking for business favors and selling influence for appointments, I will completely defame them and drive them to bankruptcy.” His elder brother Gun-pyeong, however, was later implicated in politico-business collusion and influence peddling for appointments, including Nonghyup Bank’s acquisition of Sejong Securities. Another bribery scandal implicated a number of Roh’s aides and relatives, including his son, wife, nephew-in-law, brother-in-law and secretary for general affairs. This eventually drove a humiliated Roh to suicide.

Rumors say certain people with connections are occupying and monopolizing key posts chosen by those in power, including positions at state-run companies. Controversy has erupted over whether the power elite is in effect interviewing its own candidates for key posts. Can the incumbent administration guarantee that it is immune to scandal and corruption just like former Prime Minister Han?