Dubious connection: Where is the end of ‘Kim Heung-ju scandal?’

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Dubious connection: Where is the end of ‘Kim Heung-ju scandal?’

21st CETA
(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on Jan. 12)

Dubious connection: Where is the end of ‘Kim Heung-ju scandal?’

The probe into the lobbying scandal by former head of the Grace Department Store Kim Heungju is being expanded. Han Kwang-ok, a key confidant of former president Kim Dae-jung, was summoned yesterday by the prosecution for questioning in connection with the scandal. His summons followed the arrest of Kim Jung-hoe, deputy governor of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), for allegedly taking 230 million won ($245,000) from the businessman.

Han, a political big-shot under the previous regime, is alleged to have pressured Kim Heung-ju into paying rent for an office of Kwon Roh-kap, former advisor of the Democratic Party. It has aroused the suspicion that many more politicians and ranking public officials could be involved in the scandal. The scandal is seen as a typical case of the symbiotic relationship between business and politics.

Han has reportedly admitted that he had asked Kim to pay the rent for Kwon, but said that he hadn’t offered him any favor in return. The prosecution is asked to thoroughly investigate whether Han had maintained a dubious relationship with Kim. It was not long ago that Han was freed from prison for having committed other wrongdoing. Now he has come under fresh suspicion again. This is another case of a scandal confirming the deep-rooted corruption in officialdom and the political community.

No one knows how deeply or widely the on-going investigation will spread. Kim Heung-ju was arrested for having bribed public officials and embezzling corporate funds in an attempt to buy Gold Mutual Savings Bank. In connection with this, Lee Keun-young, former FSS governor, was also brought to the prosecution for questioning about his alleged introduction of the businessman to a deputy FSS chief. The FSS oversees banks and other financial organization.

But, it is not the first time for the ranking officials of FSS to have been involved in financial scandals. Kim Jung-hoe, FSS deputy head, is known to have provided the arrested businessman with secrete financial data and used his influence to help him take over the bank, though the attempt was aborted due to opposition from the bank’s labor union. The morality and confidence of FSS have been damaged so much that it is now questionable whether it can continue overseeing financial institutions. The human relationships Kim Heung-ju has is known to be wide. He has had close relationships with a lot of ranking officials in the prosecution or other powerful organizations.

The prosecution should probe the case, leaving no stone unturned. People suffer a great deal of psychological shock whenever a corruption scandal takes place. It is a foremost task of government to seek ways preventing all forms of corruption from reoccurring. It is hoped that the current scandal will serve as an occasion to get rid of deep-rooted wrongdoings.