Find the CulpritsWith President Kim Dae-jung''s comment on punishing those who are responsible for the waste of 8.3 trillion won ($6.9 billion) in public funds, the argument on holding them accountable has given rise to a heated controversy. According to reports, some assert that it is not a good idea to hold any individuals accountable, because this was a policy failure. Others are pessimistic, saying that once again only hapless bank executives and ailing company heads will be made fall guys.
Of course, it is difficult to identify exactly who the responsible persons are and to decide how to hold them accountable, and this should not be allowed to develop into a witch-hunt. But here are the facts. More than 8 trillion won in taxpayers'' money has disappeared without a trace. Many well-meaning investors who swallowed a government minister''s line squandered their money. A former finance and economy minister said that there would be no additional capital write-off. Unlike the foreign exchange crisis in late 1997 and the failure of negotiations to sell Daewoo Motor and Hanbo Steel, in this case there was a person who triggered the chain of events and there are people who have suffered economic losses in the wake of those events. Therefore it is absolutely unacceptable to let the responsible parties get away with this.
The first order of business is to determine who was responsible for providing wrong information to investors. Then it should be divulged how it was possible for the six banks, whose net assets were posted at 3 trillion won for the third quarter, to receive an evaluation in a subsequent Financial Supervisory Service probe that their capital had all eroded. Was it the banks that announced false results? Was it the FSS that made a mistake in the investigation? Or did they use different standards?
Those who mismanaged the public funds should be held accountable as well. Also former and current ministers of finance and economy and FSS chairmen should be investigated if they had a hand in the mismanagement. This must not wind up as yet another case that starts with a bang and ends with a whimper, or as just one more proof that the big guys always come out smelling like roses.