An Imperative InvestigationA dispute about whether state prosecutors are dealing fairly with an "illegal campaign fund" scandal has been revived following the reported discovery by the prosecution that Kim Chong-hoh, acting president of the United Liberal Democrats, received 200 million won ($155,500) in illegal campaign funds. His party recently renewed a coalition with the ruling Millennium Democratic Party.
Ever since the JoongAng Ilbo''s scoop disclosed the list of 180 politicians who allegedly received illegal campaign funds during the 1996 election campaign, suspicions that the prosecutors intentionally dropped some names from the list have remained because of the absence of Mr. Kim and Prime Minister Lee Han-dong and other influential leading politicians of the then-New Korea Party (the predecessor of the Grand National Party). New questions arise with this latest report.
The prosecutors have strongly denied the charges, explaining that Rep. Kim was omitted from the probe and the list, as he had exchanged the checks in question to cash immediately after receiving the funds from the intelligence agency. But questions still remain because influential politicians like Prime Minister Lee and Rep. Kim, who were candidates of the New Korea Party during the 1996 election and then joined the ruling coalition parties, are excluded from the list.
Also missing from the list are Kim Yoon-whan, president of the Democratic Peoples'' Party, and Rep. Oh Jang-seop of the ULD, and some former lawmakers who are now core members of the ruling party.
We cannot confirm whether the intelligence agency funneled the alleged election funds to the politicians whose names have been dropped from the list. It is difficult to understand why they were excluded from the list since the funds were provided.
How was it possible for them to avoid prosecutors'' tracking down the checks? The opposition party is running rings around the prosecutors with Rep. Kim''s case. Considering the fact that the prosecutors have been investigating the case for some time now, we have no choice but to suspect that the prosecution has deliberately excluded ruling party lawmakers and pro-ruling party politicians. Investigations of those particular politicians should be carried out so that the public can clearly understand the case.
The investigation is now at a standstill since opposition vice president Rep. Kang Sam-jae refused to appear before the prosecution when it tried to arrest him on charges that he disbursed the agency funds to his party''s candidates. Rep. Kang, who was chief campaign manager at the time, should cooperate by voluntarily appearing before the prosecution to clear up the matter of his alleged key role in the diversion. However, the prosecutors should not concentrate its probe only on him.
The prosecutor general has already defined the case as an "embezzlement of the national treasury." If someone was able to divert the intelligence agency funds, it must have been higher-ranking officials. But the prosecution seems unwilling to investigate who approved the deal. There is further confusion since the opposition Grand National Party claims that the funds in question were not part of the agency''s budget but surpluses left over either by former president Kim Young-sam, or after the building of the new agency headquarters.
It is imperative for the prosecution to launch a thorough investigation so as to avoid suspicions that it has been politically motivated.