[OUTLOOK]Tale of a repentant prodigal son

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[OUTLOOK]Tale of a repentant prodigal son

President Kim Dae-jung's love for his second son, Kim Hong-up, the head of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Region, is a special kind of love.

The father preferred Hong-up to his other two sons, and it was not just a vague affection toward the eldest son or youngest son that fathers usually have. A letter Mr. Kim sent to Hong-up when he was in jail read, "Although a father should not give preferential love to one son over the others, you probably know well how much I love you."

The older Mr. Kim liked Hong-up for his thoughtfulness, and because of that trusted him with almost everything, according to Kim Kyung-jae, an assemblyman who lived in the United States in political exile together with the future president and Hong-up.

Moon Hee-sang, a close aide of Mr. Kim's first son, Kim Hong-il, told the same story. The father trusted Hong-up the most among his three sons. Important tasks belonged to Hong-up.

Thus, he might well have entered politics, but he refused to do so. During the general election in 2000, Kim Hong-up visited Kim Kyung-jae.

"Some people want me to become a politician instead of Hong-il, but I don't want to be involved in politics. My elder brother is serious about politics, but I am not. Please, dissuade those who are trying to make me run for office," Hong-up told Kim Kyung-jae.

The father thought highly of Hong-up for this position. In particular, Hong-up had good relationships with people and was always kind to them, unlike his two brothers. Many people sought help from him.

Hong-up told Mr. Moon when he was at the National Intelligence Service, "I would like to emigrate. I don't want to meet people. They swear at me and say I am arrogant if I don't meet them.

"There are all kinds of rumors, including ones that involve women, so I cannot help but meet whoever asks," Hong-up said.

The president felt sorry for Hong-up because he thought his problems were all because of his father, but Hong-up always said, "I am content with being a son of the president." He was not a greedy person.

Representative Kim Ok-doo once said, "Hong-up devotes himself to his father," and many people remember him that way. But Hong-up has a different side to his personality.

When President Kim was still an opposition leader, Hong-up bought an imported car. He was making good money at the time so he thought he would spend some of it, and dismissed concerns about what other people would think. That was not acceptable behavior for a son of an opposition party leader. In the end, he sold the car.

Hong-up's hidden nature became more obvious after President Kim came to power. He frequented luxury bars in Gangnam, in southern Seoul, with his friends. He probably thought nothing could be wrong about drinking with his buddies. The circle of his friends expanded.

Many people came across him numerous times in those drinking places. Indeed, dozens of hostesses were summoned to the prosecutors office during the course of the investigation into his affairs.

In February, an investigation into the peace foundation was already in full swing. Hong-up should have acted with discretion, but one day he was drinking in an open bar in Gangnam.

There were some familiar faces, and other customers were talking in whispers about Hong-up and his friends. Hong-up did not care and stayed longer than the other customers.

Now Hong-up is said to go to church every day. I do not know what he is praying for. Hong-up once paraphrased a prayer in the following lines in a letter he sent to his father, who was then in jail:

"If there are things I can change, may God give me courage to do so, and for those I cannot change, may God give me wisdom to accept them peacefully."

This is also what his father told Hong-up to say in prayer when going through a painful and difficult time, and Hong-up repeated it back to his father in his time of trial.

Probably Hong-up is now saying the same prayer. He should be able to repent of his wrongdoings in peace.


The writer is a political reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Youn-hong

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