[EDITORIALS]More scandal music, please

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[EDITORIALS]More scandal music, please

We could not believe our ears when we heard the news that Chin Seung-hyun, vice chairman of MCI Korea, a venture capital firm, gave 100 million won ($78,247) to Vice Justice Minister Shin Kwang-ok, the then senior secretary to the president for civil affairs, in August 2000. Considering the potential impact and explosiveness of the issue, public prosecutors must mobilize all their investigative resources to get to the truth of this matter as soon as possible.

The senior secretary to the president for civil affairs is a position that oversees the country's anti-corruption investigations. In that respect, the alleged bribery case involving Mr. Shin should be treated in a manner that is completely different from the way corruption cases involving other senior government officials are handled. Moreover, Mr. Shin is the key figure in the Kim Dae-jung administration's anti-corruption force, having headed the Central Investigation Department of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and its anti-corruption task force.

Mr. Chin is the central figure in the so-called "Chin Seung-hyun-gate." He is suspected of having bribed politicians and senior government officials after the Financial Supervisory Service discovered that he had obtained 30 billion won in illegal loans. Suspicions about him later expanded to the allegedly illegal takeover of a merchant bank and stock-price manipulations. Mr. Chin was arrested in December 2000 but is said to have paid a lot of money as kickbacks while evading investigators for three months before being apprehended. His comprehensive "lobbying" has emerged as the key element in investigations into the graft scandal, as Chung Sung-hong, a mid-level official at the National Intelligence Service, is already in custody on charges of taking 100 million won from him. Kim Eun-seong, the former head of domestic intelligence at the spy agency, is also suspected of having taken money from Mr. Chin and then visited a senior prosecutor to ask him not to arrest the businessman.

Prosecutors must quickly get at the truth about whether the vice justice minister has taken bribes from Mr. Chin because that would reveal who masterminded the scandal. Although there have been widespread rumors about a list of politicians and government officials involved in the "Chin-gate," the prosecutor's office has dismissed such allegations, inviting public criticism for attempting to whitewash the scandal. Mr. Shin vehemently denies that he took money. Though he claims he has never met Mr. Chin, Mr. Shin says he will take the responsibility for his wrongdoings, if any. He also says that he will file libel suits and claims he is being framed for political reasons. The Ministry of Justice has officially announced that the allegation is groundless, as nothing has been confirmed.

Still, we're left unconvinced about both men's explanations. Although Mr. Shin claims that he has never met Mr. Chin, a senior prosecutor has confirmed that the vice minister had lunch with the venture capitalist. In August 2000, when Mr. Chin allegedly handed money to Mr. Shin, the venture capitalist was lobbying hard before the Financial Supervisory Service reported Mr. Chin to the prosecutor's office.

Given the political weight of Mr. Shin in the current administration, some people are concerned that the probe might be swayed by political motives. Prosecutors must allay the public's suspicions as soon as possible by investigating the scandal openly and fairly. Doing so would help to restore people's trust in prosecutors.
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