[EDITORIALS]A spooky investment

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[EDITORIALS]A spooky investment

A benevolent association run by National Intelligence Service officials has taken over the management of a golf course, a recent report said. The National Intelligence Service explained that the purchase was made by the association, not the agency itself. However, the question of whether it is ethical for public officials in the nation's intelligence organ to have acquired the business still remains.

The association is a nonprofit corporation established by former President Park Chung-hee in 1970 in an effort to help retired or low-level employees in economic difficulties they faced. The employees contributed money every month for scholarships and "encouragement funds" for employees and their families. The association explained that due to today's low prevailing interest rates, it had to find more profitable businesses - like the Park Valley Golf Club in Gangwon province, which it acquired for 50 billion won ($37 million) last December. The intelligence service said the association had consulted a lawyer, and was told that there is no law prohibiting a nonprofit corporation from investing in a money-making business; nor would investing in a golf club be considered running a business.

According to the law and employee regulations of the National Intelligence Service, intelligence service employees are not allowed to hold a profit-making job while they hold their government position. It may be that the association's acquisition and management of the golf club under contract is not in violation of government regulations, as the intelligence service says.

But the service admitted that it and the association hesitated over the purchase of the golf club out of concern about the public reaction. Would the public - which is fully aware of the power of the government - accept that public officials, especially some high-ranking intelligence officers, are making profit on the side? How can the government stop other public officials from establishing "nonprofit" associations to "invest as a nonprofit-driven action?" We understand the predicament of the association because of interest rates, but we also believe that the intelligence organ should refrain from any suspicious actions.
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