[EDITORIALS]Guess what? More scandal

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[EDITORIALS]Guess what? More scandal

How many senior public officials are free from corruption? We cannot help but ask ourselves this question after hearing that Kim Yong-chae, vice president of the United Liberal Democrats, had been summoned by prosecutors for interrogation on charges of taking bribes.

Mr. Kim is suspected of receiving 200 million won ($150,000) from a local company in 1999, when he served as a chief secretary to Kim Jong-pil, then the prime minister, in return for lobbying for providing the firm with government bailout money. We hope he is not guilty, but we are disappointed at his tortuous explanations. At first he said he had never heard of the company. Soon after that, he claimed that he returned the money in question to the firm.

Korean citizens, who are tired of a series of graft scandals and rumors about a list of politicians and officials taking bribes, are even more enraged over this scandal because of the timing and the nature of the money used for bribery. The alleged incident occurred while the political community was embroiled in heated debate over a proposed anti-corruption law. Mr. Kim was a key aide to the prime minister, and was praised as an able, experienced man when he was appointed construction and transportation minister. It is astonishing that such a person is suspected of involvement in misappropriating tax money, but it may say something about why there were so many rumors about the misuse of bailout funds and why taxpayers are now faced with a 400-trillion-won national debt. We did not expect that United Liberal Democrats would be free of corruption, but Koreans are sad to see, yet again, scandals involving senior officials.

Will the "Kim Yong-chae scandal" be the last? The government, infested with corruption, must crack down on irregularities. It makes no difference what party is involved or what positions the officials involved hold. The ULD must not muddy the waters by arguing that Mr. Kim is being persecuted politically because he is the chief presidential campaign manager for Kim Jong-pil next year. Prosecutors must leave no stone unturned in scrutinizing corruption cases involving politicians so that no arguments about a "political purge" can be made.
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