[EDITORIALS]Questions for a foundation

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[EDITORIALS]Questions for a foundation

The public's interest in the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation is quickly turning from curiosity to suspicion. The defining moment came with the detainment of Lee Soo-dong, a former executive director of the foundation. But even before that the foundation had been a center of controversy in the political sector.

Suspicion is now focusing on the 21.3 billion won ($16 million) in funds collected over a period from 1994 through 2000. The funds supposedly increased markedly after President Kim Dae-jung moved into the Blue House in 1998, and the series of arrests of the foundation's former and incumbent senior officials in corruption cases fuels the suspicion. The furor surrounding the construction of a new foundation building next to the president's former residence in Donggyo-dong, Seoul, and his second son assuming the foundation's vice chairmanship has refused to go away. Chief among the suspicions and controversies is that irregularities have been committed based on the misuse of power. Endless and groundless rumors have abounded that the funds collected were kickbacks for party nominations and that the funds are really President Kim's slush funds.

As the foundation's name suggests, the foundation symbolizes the essence of President Kim's career as a politician, and it is where he will work when he steps down in February 2003. The foundation is also where President Kim gave the $929,300 in Nobel Peace Prize money, money that he had promised to use for a "good cause." According to the opposition Grand National Party, the foundation also received the proceeds from the sale of property owned by the first lady. Earlier, President Kim had promised that the money would go to a center for the disabled. It is exasperating that a foundation, which embodies a democracy activist-turned-president's passions and causes, is turning into a suspicious haven for corruption and rumors.

The foundation has yet to issue a formal explanation regarding suspicions cast its way. The foundation has called the issuance of the detention warrant against Mr. Lee a "personal problem." It is not too late for the foundation to disclose the amount of the funds received, where those funds were used and the cost of construction for the new building. Not doing so will only bring more suspicion.
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