[EDITORIALS]The nephew's errand boy

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[EDITORIALS]The nephew's errand boy

The words of Lee Ki-ho, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, deserve nothing but disgust and contempt. First, there is the changing of his words. Mr. Lee at first insisted that he had never met Lee Hyung-taek, the nephew of the president's wife seeking government support for his treasure excavation, in the Blue House. However, he soon admitted ?after the independent counsel investigating the matter seemed to get too close to the truth ?that he had introduced Lee Hyung-taek to Eom Ik-joon, then a deputy director at the National Intelligence Service, in early December of 1999.

What is even more maddening is his lame mention of "national interest." Lee Ki-ho said he had introduced Mr. Lee to Mr. Eom because, "if the treasure was found, it would have meant some trillion won of money for the national interest." This cannot be a reason to excuse his attempt to use the top intelligence agency of the country as a personal trouble-solving broker for a private citizen. "National interest" or not, he was the provider of the link in the misuse of public power by a relative of the president.

Even this "national interest" excuse makes no sense. In his statement, Lee Ki-ho said, "Mr. Eom called sometime before early February of 2000 saying that the treasure story was false and that Mr. Lee had been notified of the fact." The treasure hunt had already been declared a hoax at that point, and yet the support from the intelligence agency for the plan had continued while Lee Yong-ho was gathering 10 billion won ($7.6 million) of profit by boosting stock prices with stories of the treasure. Mr. Lee cannot avoid the suspicion that he knew about this swindle and did nothing to stop it. If he really did not know anything about it, that tells us something about the abilities of our economic officials. And if he did know about it, well, that tells us how much interest Mr. Lee really had in "national interest."

It seems that Lee Ki-ho is waiting for the results of the independent counsel's investigation before deciding his course of action. There is no need to wait. Lee Ki-ho should take responsibility for his actions and resign his office ?and then resign himself to his fate at the hands of the independent counsel.

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