[EDITORIALS]Hiding behind MDP skirts

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[EDITORIALS]Hiding behind MDP skirts

The Millennium Democratic Party is mishandling its response to suspicions about President Kim Dae-jung's three sons. The leadership and party spokesman are being too clever in their attempts to deflect attention from the issue by making similar accusations of scandals in the opposition party's ranks and trying to start a bout of indiscriminate mudslinging.

When the conduct of Kim Hong-gul, the president's third son, became an issue in the Choi Gyu-seon scandal, the MDP restarted stories about a palatial home used by Lee Hoi-chang, the opposition party leader. Early last month, when slush funds held by Kwon Roh-kap, another MDP heavyweight, came under question, the MDP also talked about Mr. Lee's mansion. It worked. The noise about the funds died down. But this time things are different, because the National Tax Service has already finished an audit of Mr. Lee's affairs. Why is the MDP talking about the mansion again?

The MDP is attacking Lee Shin-bom, who received $100,000 from Kim Hong-gul in what looks like hush money Mr. Kim offered to stop Mr. Lee from exposing some aspects of Mr. Kim's mysterious life in Los Angeles that he wants to keep secret. The MDP has attacked Mr. Lee, saying that the president's son had been trapped by a dirty trick. But that claim just further irritates an angry public that wants to know how Mr. Kim, nominally a student, got the $100,000. Did he actually own land in Ilsan? Did he lie on an application for a bank loan?

The MDP's tactics to divert public suspicions will not work this time. There are just as many questions about Kim Hong-gul as about Mr. Lee's questionable conduct.

Whenever a story about Kim Dae-jung's sons arises, the MDP pulls up the drawbridge. We cannot understand the reaction, even if it is just an attempt to protect the president. There seem to be too many things to protect him against. Two years ago, rumors spread about Kim Hong-gul's Los Angeles lifestyle. Since then the MDP has defended and protected him whenever new stories came out. That blind loyalty fed suspicions, not suppressed them. More and more people are demanding that Kim Hong-gul come back to Seoul, appear before a televised hearing and be subject to a police investigation. Only when the ruling party shows some courage will this matter be cleared up.

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