[EDITORIALS]Questions to be answered

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[EDITORIALS]Questions to be answered

Suspicions surrounding Choi Gyu-seon and Kim Hong-gul, President Kim Dae-jung's third son, are snowballing.

We count two major questions. Did Posco purchase 200,000 shares held by Song Jae-bin, head of Tiger Pools International, for a price of 35,000 won per share, which was higher than the stock market value at that time? Song reportedly gave 2.4 billion won ($1.9 million) of the 7 billion won in proceeds to Mr. Choi for lobbying services. Mr. Choi reportedly gave a portion of the 2.4 billion won to Mr. Kim.

The other question involves the first lady Lee Hee-ho. Did she ask Yoo Sang-boo, chairman of the board of the Posco group, to meet with her son and Mr. Choi to give them business advice? The press should try to find out if she made the request because it is a crucial issue.

Since the alleged meeting in July 2000, several transactions, including the stock sale, have transpired between Mr. Choi's camp and Posco. In particular, Mr. Choi reportedly was pursuing a plan to start a new company, which would be supported by a Posco affiliate and headed by Mr. Kim. Should we conclude that these alleged transactions were the purported business advice?

The Blue House and Posco are denying that the first lady played any role. Officials at Posco, who said Sunday that their chairman met with Mr. Kim and his acquaintances upon the request of the first lady, changed their statements in less than 24 hours. There was a "misunderstanding," they now claim. But how can we believe what they say? How could Posco officials make such a blunder in a case where the first lady's name was mentioned?

Another problem is that Posco could take a beating on business transparency in the international community. Since its privatization in September 2000, Posco has been hailed as a success case for government-led restructuring and the privatization of state-run corporations. But the alleged stock transactions and charges of other transactions between the group and the president's son illustrate that the privatization organization may not be completely free of the influence of the ruling government and the powers that be. For the sake of the future of a world-class company, the truth of any transactions that took place among Posco, Mr. Choi and Mr. Kim should be revealed.
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