[EDITORIALS]Questions for a nephew

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[EDITORIALS]Questions for a nephew

Questions concerning the extent of the involvement of Lee Hyung-taek, the nephew of first lady Lee Hee-ho, in a failed treasure hunt, are snowballing. The questions began with the discovery that Mr. Lee, the former managing director of the Korea Deposit Insurance Corp., signed an agreement in a treasure hunting project that promised him 15 percent of expected profits. Since then, the questions have spread about him lobbying officials of the National Intelligence Service and the military, and exercising influence on Industrial and Hanvit banks concerning loans to Samae Indus, the company in charge of the treasure hunting project.

The questions are starting to resemble facts. Each day that we awake to new allegations against Mr. Lee makes us feel that Lee Yong-ho-gate ought to be renamed Lee Hyung-taek-gate.

A look at the government agencies that Mr. Lee approached shows that he made an all-out lobbying effort. He did not hesitate in his indiscriminate lobbying. In particular, lobbying as he did officials of the National Intelligence Service and the military is not something that just anybody can do, which leads us to assume that he may have used his position as the nephew of the first lady in approaching the agencies.

Which then leads us to the question whether such lobbying is possible without protection of powers higher than Mr. Lee. From obtaining permission for excavation, to requesting assistance, to exercising influence so that several billions of won in loans could be obtained by the company in charge of the treasure hunt, are all activities that Mr. Lee would have found hard to do alone. We are getting an impression that Mr. Lee was the point man, while someone more important lent support.

The revelation by a prosecutor who had worked on Lee Yong-ho's case last year that "the prosecution did not track the financial accounts of Mr. Lee because of his relation to President Kim Dae-jung" illustrates why the special prosecutors office should not pardon any agencies in its probe.

The failure to stem relatives of the first family from exercising influence should be considered a failure by the president. In addition, a Blue House comment on an ongoing investigation may place a heavier burden on law enforcement authorities.
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