[EDITORIALS]Good start on cleanup

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[EDITORIALS]Good start on cleanup

The government plan announced Thursday for the repayment of bailout funds is meaningful as a comprehensive step based on concrete numbers. It has been, after all, busy putting out the fire since 1998. But the plan also represents a small start to tackling a complex problem, which is sure to entail exhaustive arguments and disagreements in pursuit of a formula for writing off the losses and drawing up a schedule of public debt repayment.

The government said 156 trillion won ($130 billion) has been provided to financial firms. Of that, 42 trillion won has been recovered and the collection of another 45 trillion won is expected. The loss is 87 trillion won, including bond interest, and, of that, 69 trillion won represents the principal to be borne by the government and the financial sector over 25 years.

Despite the contention, the money spent has helped the economy get back on its feet and established a foundation for the financial sector's return to normalcy. The question is who should bear how much of the loss. It is no secret that 90 percent of the funds have ended up in corporations. But many of the companies are bankrupt. The players involved in the process -- the government, the financial firms and the corporate sector -- have already been in a tug of war over who should be responsible for how much. Considering the scale of money and public interest involved, not one player should be held responsible for the whole. The financial burden must be decided on who benefited more or less and how to minimize the overall burden on the economy.

What is of greater concern is the expected turmoil in the National Assembly, which will review the proposal. With the presidential election approaching, the issue is likely to become politicized even more.

But at the same time, efforts to recover the funds and to punish those liable for the losses must be stepped up. In no way should the latest accounting be allowed to become an opportunity to put the issue behind us. Here is an opportunity to make the program "worth the cost," and that will not come before the financial sector reform is complete.
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