중앙데일리

[EDITORIAL] An Exemplary, Honest Lawmaker

Jan 08,2001
A short news item about Representative Lee Hyup, a four-term ruling party lawmaker, is refreshing: He lived in a rundown 42.9-square-meter apartment heated with coal briquettes for 18 years, but when the building was razed recently, he moved to a rented apartment of 92.4 square meters. Following on the heels of several corruption cases, the new year began with an election campaign financing scandal. Against the backdrop of such an intimate relationship between political circles and slush funds, it is no wonder that Mr. Lee's cleanness comes as a surprise.

Mr. Lee's frugality was known when he was first elected. His lack of wealth naturally contrasted with other politicians' affluence, often catching the attention of the news media. Now we are looking at him afresh because he did not abandon his attitude even after he became a seasoned politician. It is no easy feat in Korea's political climate.

During the 15th National Assembly, Mr. Lee became the chairman of the Culture and Tourism Committee after serving as a member of the Construction and Transportation Committee, the so-called lucrative committee. We presume that interested organizations and companies must have bombarded him with various temptations. But Mr. Lee is known as a lawmaker who cannot be bought, and never once has he been linked to a scandal. Ordinarily in Korean politics, whenever a large-scale scandal erupts, politicians are implicated. They deny bribe-taking, but after the prosecutors' investigation they almost always emerge with handcuffs. That is why Rep. Lee's unchanging modest life style is a whiff of fresh air for the Korean public.

It is said that he uses only a small portion of his monthly salary of 5 million won ($4000) for household expenses. He receives annual donations of around 100 million won, but those funds all go to his political activities.

He likes to say, "The occupation of the lawmaker is not to make money but to spend money." Last year he lost in the race for his party's Supreme Council, but he was applauded as the only law-abiding candidate during the campaign. He deserves to be a paragon in Korea's political scene, strewn with trickery and suspected shady dealings to accumulate wealth. Mr. Lee's wife said, "I'm happy because our two sons, university students, have their own room to study for the first time and I no longer have to change coal briquettes to keep the fire going." Don't we all find her words admirable?


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