[EDITORIALS]A friend to hold the money?

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[EDITORIALS]A friend to hold the money?

President Kim's second son Kim Hong-up is found to have placed about 1 billion won ($750,000) in the hands of his friend Kim Sung-hwan, former chairman of Seoul Music Broadcasting Company. The prosecutors tracing the flow of money reportedly found that 10 percent out of 10 billion won managed by Mr. Kim actually belongs to the president's son.

Closing out its investigation last month, the independent counsel Cha Jong-il said there was money in Mr. Kim's account which is not thought to be related to commercial deals. The amount quoted by the independent counsel is identical to that the prosecutors are investigating. We recall a remark made by the independent counsel team: "In the course of tracing the account, we found something hard to believe."

If Kim Hong-up managed 1 billion won via Kim Sung-hwan, it raises different suspicions than the financial scandals involving start-up firms posed. The Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation's explanation that its vice president, Kim Hong-up, borrowed 1 billion from Kim Sung-hwan to pay a retirement allowance to the former executive director Lee Soo-dong loses its persuasive power. To clear suspicion, the source and purpose of the money should be clarified. Sources close to the prosecutors speculate that it may be the residue of the 1997 presidential campaign fund or perhaps Kim Hong-up's slush fund from politicians for public activities and private spending. In either case it seems odd that the president's son left large amounts of money in the hands of his friend. The Kim Hyun-chul scandal at the end of the Kim Young-sam regime was strikingly similar.

Kim Sung-hwan, having evaded the independent counsel's summons, is said to be at large. The saying, "If only one escapes the independent counsel, he will be all right," seems to be working. Prosecutors say Mr. Kim is not a wanted criminal, since no crime has been verified. Then why have the independent counsel and the prosecution spent a month not investigating a prime suspect? Giving him opportunity to destroy evidence is bad; worse, the prosecution gives the impression that it is no better than the independent counsel. This will not only damage public confidence in the prosecution but also disgrace its individual members.
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