[EDITORIALS]Confession can spawn good

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[EDITORIALS]Confession can spawn good

The shockwave created by the confession by a Millennium Democratic Party representative, Kim Keun-tae, that he spent 240 million won ($181,000) in illegal campaign funds in August 2000 is spreading uncontrollably.

He said the sum was part of the 530 million won he spent for the campaign for party leadership in August 2000 and was not reported to the National Election Commission. To the electorate, the confession is a penance that will be, as was said by Mr. Kim, an axe hitting his foot.

The confusion and shock felt by the people stem from the fact that Mr. Kim is a former democracy activist considered less likely to be tainted. If he was handling hundreds of millions of won in illegal campaign funds, the people are appalled at how much more the other candidates must have been moving around. The sentiment also embodies the sense of hopelessness at the reality that our political climate is swayed so easily by illegitimate money and the amount of power money wields. We believe that Mr. Kim's confession should not end as a mere storm in a teakettle. To make the upcoming elections the first to be free of improper campaign funds, as the business community has repeatedly called for, we urge all the candidates to come clean.

What adds to the public's suspicion about the source of the illegal funds is Mr. Kim's revelation that he accepted 20 million won from the party's former Supreme Council member and a leader of the Donggyo faction, Kwon Rho-kap. It came with the speculation that other candidates also accepted contributions from Mr. Kwon. Mr. Kwon said that 20 million won given each to Mr. Kim and another candidate, Chung Dong-young, was all there and the money came from savings accumulated from his wife's restaurant business. But the explanation is not convincing. Mr. Kwon has been the center of countless rumors for being "the actual power behind the Kim Dae-jung administration" and "the caretaker of the party's campaign purse." Mr. Kwon will be well advised to take this opportunity to provide a clear explanation on where the money came from and how it was spent. He can clear his name of improper campaign funds once and for all.

Mr. Kim said he intended for his revelation to be a warning to prevent the party primaries from becoming a money-fest mobilizing the candidates' organizations. Most of the other candidates have come out to denounce Mr. Kim's statement as a desperate campaign ploy to create an image that he is the only clean guy. Whether the announcement is a ploy or not, the important thing is that it indicates the distrust surrounding the upcoming primaries, which are approaching the danger of being called the "money-fest primaries."

Mr. Kim's statement reveals an illegal act. But he must be given room for vindication for being a whistle-blower. If the election law is applied to punish him, other violators will not come forth. If only to encourage more political confessions, he must be forgiven. The party's responsibility is to form a committee to get to the bottom of the affair. And it must come out with a statement on the record about improper funds that allegedly went into the party leadership's campaign two years ago.

The opposition party is not free from controversy either, with allegations about the diversion of government money into the election and the National Tax Office's involvement in campaign fund-raising. The reality affects the entire political community in the difficulty of raising campaign money and the temptation ever present in the process. The solution is for the entire community to resolve to create a climate that values transparency and frugality in politics.
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