[EDITORIALS]No more missing linkNew suspicions in the Jeong Hyun-joon fraud case have erupted.
This time, fingers are pointed at the possible involvement of senior officials at the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation and a personal secretary to President Kim's second son, Kim Hong-up. The foundation's former director Lee Soo-dong, an administrative executive, Kim Byeong-ho, and the personal secretary, among others, each contributed 50 million won ($38,000) to buy shares in a start-up company. They are said to have recouped their principal and earned interest of 2 percent per month even as the firm's share price fell. Furthermore, they reportedly got a sweetheart deal on the original purchase, buying the shares at below market value.
Let's see. Share prices go down but they got what they paid and interest at about a 25 percent annual rate. That looks suspiciously like either a bribe or a special favor. Jang Rae-chan, former director of the Financial Supervisory Service, committed suicide last year after the prosecution started investigating a similar case. It turns out that he was also an investor in the same private deal as the three persons now under suspicion. Compare their situation with that of investors who lost tons of money in start-up firms whose share values went to pot.
The problem is that all the beneficiaries of the sweet deal are in and around the ruling party, including the Peace Foundation, and all start-up firms are under a cloud, suspected of lobbying politicians and government officials to manipulate their stock prices. There must have been some reason that these particular start-up companies compensated these particular investors for their losses. Given the investors' ties to the government, the deal looks wildly unethical even if it turns out not to be strictly illegal.
Furthermore, Lee Soo-dong has already been arrested on charges of involvement in the Lee Yong-ho scandal. Special prosecutors have confirmed that a close friend of President Kim's second son, Kim Sung-whan, had huge financial dealings with Pyungchang Construction, the parent firm of the start-up firm in question. Kim Sung-whan is nowhere to be found. Finally, we see a connection between the Lee Yong-ho and Jeong Hyun-joon scandals.
We are also interested in the private office run until recently by Kim Hong-up in Yeoksam-dong, south of the Han River. Mr. Kim has his own office at the Peace Foundation, where he is vice chairman, but he seems to need a separate office with a separate staff.
Just what purpose does that office serve, how many employees were there and who paid for it? After a son of then-President Kim Young-sam, Kim Hyun-chul, was found to have engaged in some illegal dealings, the people have been a little suspicious of all Blue House sons. Kim Hong-up should answer some questions.
The onus is on the prosecution now: Were senior political officials involved in shady stock transactions of start-up firm shares? Few doubt that the special favors known to have been given to foundation officials and Kim Hong-up's aide are just the tip of the iceberg. The recently-disbanded independent counsel's office reported before it closed, "We have seen what is not supposed to be seen." The words in a way support that general sense that a lot is still concealed. The prosecution should complete the job of laying out the truth about the scandals involving Lee Yong-ho, Jeong Hyun-joon and Chin Seoung-hyun, and how they are related.