[EDITORIALS]Appearances matter

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[EDITORIALS]Appearances matter

Now President Kim Dae-jung's brother-in-law is accused of using his influence to support the founding of a start-up company and to drum up investment. The youngest brother of the president's wife, Lee Sung-ho, is alleged to have invited political leaders and high-ranking government officials to the company's founding ceremony, where he delivered a glowing address. Investors say they lost billions of won when the company's owner embezzled their money and fled abroad - all because they trusted Mr. Lee.

Mr. Lee says the facts have been grossly exaggerated. His involvement was limited to attending the event, he said, and saying a few words of encouragement for a junior acquaintance, the company's chief executive. He says he was not involved in the operation or in the ownership of the firm and received no compensation.

We see no impropriety in Mr. Lee's actions if those are the facts. It is quite natural in our society to offer a helping hand to someone close, and that is often a virtue. But from the photographs taken at the ceremony and an assemblyman's assertion that he took part in the event on Mr. Lee's urging, anyone would suspect that there could be more to the matter than what Mr. Lee has said. All too often, some relative of a powerful official or a politician becomes embroiled in an outrageous scandal and immediately denies all allegations.

The president's family and relatives cannot limit themselves to the same standards of conduct as average people. That is especially true in our society where power, either in substance or in appearance, is such a powerful tool. It is for this reason that the president's brother-in-law cannot act like any man on the street. It is for this reason that there is a Blue House official whose full-time job is to manage the affairs of the president's relatives.

That the president's sons, his wife's nephew, a "butler" and now a brother-in-law have been accused of improprieties should not be brushed off as mere end-of-term incidents. The Blue House ought to take the initiative to look into the affairs not only for illegality but also to determine whether the presidential relatives' conduct misled innocent people and resulted in losses to them.

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