Bank Loan Scandal Needs Thorough Investigation

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Bank Loan Scandal Needs Thorough Investigation

With Culture-Tourism Minister Park Jie Won's resignation on September 20, probes into alleged external pressures in granting large-scale bank loans have entered a new phase.

Mr. Park's resignation is the result of the public's wish to know the truth. Only a few days ago, President Kim Dae Jung said there was no evidence of misconduct, only suspicions, but he was forced to demand the minister's resignation, mainly because of rising public anger.

But this is just the start. Now the prosecution needs to get to the truth.

Mr. Park has publicly vowed to co-operate as a private citizen, so the largest stumbling block has been removed. Instead of trying to read the minds of powerful figures, the prosecution has an opportunity to make thorough inquiries.

The investigations should center on whether people were wielding influence behind the scenes, how much pressure powerful government officials exerted and how the huge loans were used.

The probes into the Hanvit Bank loan and the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund's case must be integrated. At present, they are separated between the Seoul Prosecutor's Main Office and the East Branch Office.

The investigating office must also be changed. Immediately after Mr. Park resigned, the Special Department of the Seoul Prosecutor's Office was suggested as a candidate. But this branch has already done its share in the investigations. It would be reasonable for the more professional and experienced Central Investigation Department of the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office Central to take over.

Fortunately, a former Korea Credit Guarantee Fund branch manager, Lee Un Young, has promised to report to the prosecution today. He has been on the prosecutor's wanted list. The confrontation between Mr. Lee and Mr. Park is likely to bring about a breakthrough.

The prosecution, which so far does not have a good track record, should use this opportunity to improve its performance. In the past, investigations into corruption charges involving government influence or powerful political figures have been one-sided, the scope of inquiries reduced, or the truth buried. So far, the current effort has been no exception.

If the new probe results in the familiar criticism that only a few insignificant fall guys are being prosecuted, it will be a national tragedy.

If public faith is to be restored, investigators must settle for no less than the truth.

by Kwon Il

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