[OUTLOOK]Doubts on Kim sons are justified

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[OUTLOOK]Doubts on Kim sons are justified

In a back alley behind the Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in downtown Seoul, there is a Korean restaurant visited frequently by members of the Donggyo-dong faction, the loyal followers of President Kim Dae-jung. President Kim often ate at this restaurant when he was head of the opposition.

Inside, rooms occupy both sides of the restaurant. In one of the rooms on the right there is an eight-panel folding screen. The screen is covered with writings related to President Kim.

President Kim's inaugural speech in 1998 is written on the first panel of the screen, and there is the transcription of a letter the president wrote while he was held behind bars during the military dictatorship. One of Mrs. Kim's letters to her imprisoned husband is also written there. Writings by Mr. Kim's two sons are on the last panels. Kim Hong-il, the eldest son of President Kim, wrote a letter that reads: "Dear father, who is in jail, I believe the words in the Bible that say the ordeal you are encountering is a platform, and God plans to use you in the future for greater purposes."

A month ago I had dinner with Kim Hong-il in the room where the screen stands. I brought up the subject of what he had written. "It seems like everything has turned out the way you believed," I said. Kim Hong-il replied, "I should attend church with more devotion."

The conversation went on, and we easily moved on to the next issue, which was current events. The subject about the allegations concerning Kim Hong-il also came up. Kim Hong-il suddenly became agitated about accusations linking him with corruption. He said he was mortified over the allegations against him. Mr. Kim is constantly mentioned in bribery scandals as having received bribes from businessmen. Kim Hong-il spoke words that were hardly recognizable - due to speech problems for which he is to have medical treatment during his current U.S. visit - but the message was clear:

"If I were involved with such allegations related to corruption, my father would not let me live in peace."

Kim Hong-il added that a few days ago his father invited him to the Blue House and asked him if he had accepted bribes from a certain person. Kim Hong-il said his father even mentioned a specific amount of money that the son allegedly had received.

"Please order an investigation into me. If I am found to have accepted a penny as bribes, I will never appear before you."

Ultimately a confidential but thorough investigation of Kim Hong-il took place, and as he said, Mr. Kim came out clean. Mr. Kim said that he lived under constant internal surveillance and investigations before the rumors spread.

The next day I met Park Ji-won, a former senior secretary to the president, and asked him if what Kim Hong-il said was true. Mr. Park confirmed what Kim Hong-il told me during dinner. Mr. Park said he himself had investigated the rumors surrounding Mr. Kim. The same process was carried out on Kim Hong-up, the second son of the president.

"Nothing was to be found," said Mr. Park. Mr. Park said he handed the results of the investigation on both sons to the president. And the president had reconfirmed their innocence in calls to his sons.

Park Joon-young, former minister of the Government Information Agency, said he also conducted an internal verification on Kim Hong-il and handed the report to the president. And again the president got confirmation from his son over the phone.

Indeed, verification and objectivity are two different matters. Alas, the former minister of government information, who was once the presidential spokesman, allegedly was involved in a financial scandal.

Recently President Kim said, "Contrary to the rumors that have been spreading around my sons, they have never accepted any bribes." However, the response to whether they have accepted bribes or not is not convincing and there should be a more thorough investigation. The problem lies with the people Kim Hong-il and his brother have kept company with. The people they have met are people who have caused social problems, being at the center of financial scandals that involve government officials, politicians and even journalists. Naturally, the public has doubts on their asserted innocence of accepting bribes.

In a passage from the Bible, God says that even though villains approach us and lull us into wrongdoing, God forbids us from walking with them and commands us to turn our backs against such people.

Sin is more than a person breaking the law. For a person who believes in the word of God, according to the Bible, it is also a sin to breach the spirit of those words.


The writer is a staff writer on political affairs of the Joongang Ilbo.

by Lee Youn-hong

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