[EDITORIALS]'Fess up,' all you politicians

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[EDITORIALS]'Fess up,' all you politicians

The sparks of controversy that stemmed from Representative Kim Keun-tae's unreported and therefore illegal political funds is spreading to Kwon Roh-kap, former senior adviser of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party. Mr. Kwon may well be irritated; he has retired from front-line politics and he himself did not spur the illegal political funds debate. But mud sticks. Every time the issue of murky political funds pop up, Mr. Kwon's name comes to mind.

Kwon Roh-kap, who has the reputation as the second most powerful man in President Kim's administration, denies rumors and speculation that he managed and distributed political funds. After Kim Keun-tae revealed that he received 20 million won ($15,000) from Mr. Kwon, Mr. Kwon then said that he had given another 20 million won to Representative Chung Dong-young. Forty million won was the total of political funds that he gave out, he said, and no more. He also explained that the 40 million won came from his wife's restaurant business and not from supporters or some other source. That is a claim hardly befitting the ruling camp's powerful figure. Despite Mr. Kwon's claims, a daily newspaper, Naeil Sinmun, reported that three other legislators received sums ranging from 5 million won to 50 million won at the party convention in August 2000. Representative Rhee In-je, who enjoys a close patron-acolyte relationship with Mr. Kwon, said some fuzzy words like "There was no direct delivery..." when he was interviewed. Something smells here.

Mr. Kwon has exerted broad influence as the president's right-hand man. He should take notice of the strong public sentiment about illegal political funds after Mr. Kim made his confession. From his own words, it is clear that Mr. Kim violated the Political Fund Act by not reporting some of the money he received from supporters, but there are no calls for his scalp. Rather, there are calls that we should take this opportunity to clean up the political environment which smells of dubious political funds. We were all in it together in the past, when a gap between reality and the rule of law existed, but we can now work for transparent politics.

The times call for honest disclosures in order to improve our political culture. Let's set a grace period, admit past wrongdoings and exorcise this demon.
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