Get to the Bottom of This Diversion

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Get to the Bottom of This Diversion

Shock waves rippled through the Korean public with the disclosure of a list of politicians who allegedly received election campaign funds during the 1996 general elections from the Agency for National Security Planning. According to this list, reportedly compiled after the prosecution''s preliminary probe, the intelligence agency financed 183 candidates of the New Korea Party, the then-ruling party, as well as some opposition and independent hopefuls. The intelligence agency allegedly diverted the funds from the national budget. The Grand National Party, the successor of the New Korea Party, claims that the disclosure of the names is tantamount to a political conspiracy, but the ruling Millennium Democratic Party is using the disclosure as evidence of wrongdoing and insisting that the funds should be returned to state coffers.

We cannot help but feel anger and dismay over the fact that the national budget was diverted to a particular party''s election campaign funds. The nation''s intelligence agency has a history, since the days of the Korea Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s, of getting itself involved in politics and distorting the political picture through the mobilization of its wide-ranging, behind-the-scenes information collection capabilities and its ability to marshall huge amounts of funds. A clause has been inserted in the law to prevent the intelligence agency from intervening in politics, but with the eruption of the current case, it has come to light that the Agency for National Security Planning financed the ruling party''s election by tapping the reserves in the national budget. It is an absolutely unacceptable act. Suspicions over the list of names should be painstakingly sifted through to get to the bottom of the matter.

What has to be determined first and foremost is the accuracy of the list. The prosecution is supposed to be responsible for the compilation, but it is obvious at a glance that the list is slanted. Most New Korea Party candidates were beneficiaries of the funds, but some names are conspicuously missing. If some names did not make the list because they defected the New Korea Party to take important posts in the current coalition government between President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil, honorary president of the United Liberal Democrats, while others are currently executives of the United Liberal Democrats, it will naturally trigger an uproar that the prosecution turned a blind eye to certain figures. Additionally, if some politicians in smaller parties have been excluded from the list because they are cooperating with the current government, it will spark suspicions that the prosecutors'' investigation is one-sided and geared to political maneuvering. Accordingly, a neutral probe into the possibility of a distorted prosecution''s list is a priority along with an all-out, accurate investigation into the recipients of political funds.

In order to divulge the illegal funneling of budget fund and political intervention on the part of the Agency for National Security Planning, every step of the election financing process in question should be laid bare for scrutiny. The prosecution must disclose not only who distributed and delivered the money, but also who planned and permitted such illegal acts. Such a tremendous scale of budget diversions would not have been possible only at the request of a mere operations director at the intelligence agency.

Therefore, we believe that Rep. Kang Sam-jae, who played a key liaison role as the campaign chief of the New Korea Party, should report himself to the prosecution and reveal everything in detail. We think it is not justifiable for the Grand National Party to protect a lawmaker implicated in the illegal budget funneling by keeping the National Assembly sessions open to prevent his arrest. At the same time, we consider it a low strategy on the part of the Millennium Democratic Party to be engaging in a political struggle, taking advantage of the current case in its political offensive. Such an action will only cloud the nature of the case and fan the spark of doubts.

The people are angry over the illegal diversion of budget funds, but they are also watching the development of the case with a suspicious eye, wondering whether the prosecution with its credibility in tatters is investigating from a truly neutral position or whether a political subplot is thickening. Unless a systematic mechanism is in place, such as appropriate verification methods to prevent the intelligence agency from diverting budget monies and bars to further political intervention, the agency will continue to act as a vehicle for political tampering. It should be a lesson to us all. We should take this opportunity to set up a sturdy firewall and a supervisory system against the intelligence agency''s involvement in political affairs.
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