Cleaning Up at the Blue House

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Cleaning Up at the Blue House

The report that a janitor at the Blue House received large sums of money from Chung Hyun-joon is a shameful reflection of how it is possible to wield influence just by virtue of the fact that one works at a government power center. The Blue House needs to do some serious self-examination to discover how it has managed to give the impression that even a janitor is someone to "deal with."

A Mr. Lee, who is in charge of cleaning at the president''s residence, is now being investigated for having passed himself off last year to Mr. Chung as the Blue House''s Sanitation Section Chief and of having accepted billions of won as payment to "take care" of various civil petitions. He allegedly invested money in a fund set up by Mr. Chung and when it suffered losses, collected over 900 million won in compensation. We can''t help being a bit amused that Mr. Chung was so easily taken in by a janitor, and at the same time we are appaled that the mere fact of working for the Blue House makes it possible to pull off such schemes.

It is said that the prosecutors subpoenaed Mr. Lee in secret even though they had already gotten a deposition from him. The secrecy seems odd in comparison with the prosecutors'' usual handling of subpoenas. If even the prosecutor''s office has to kowtow to the Blue House in this fashion, it''s little wonder that ordinary citizens feel awed in the presence of even the cleaning staff.

The Blue House would probably like to pass over this incident lightly as the misdeed of one lowly worker, but this goes beyond Mr. Lee himself.

Just look at the state of law and order at the Blue House. Only a little over 20 days ago a Blue House official was arrested under suspicion of having received 120 million won in a case involving the Pohang Steel Corp. In fact, since this administration took office there have been no fewer than 14 incidents of illicit influence-peddling involving relatives of the president or high-level Blue House personnel. It is time for the presidential secretaries to reflect seriously about the behaviour of their own personnel.

The unpleasant flagrance of this incident reminds us of a famous newspaper cartoon "Kobawoo" which ridiculed the influence-peddling case involving another janitor in the later years of the Syngman Rhee administration.

The administration should regard this most recent incident of corruption as the last straw and put its house in order so that the citizenry can think of the Blue House as the residence of a Man of Peace who runs a truly democratic government, not a place where one goes to pay the staff to use their pull.
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