[OUTLOOK]The perils of knowing Hong-gul

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[OUTLOOK]The perils of knowing Hong-gul

Kim Hong-gul is the youngest of President Kim Dae-jung's three sons. He was born when Lee Hee-ho, President Kim's second wife, was more than 40. Kim Hong-gul is said to be extremely shy but easily moved when someone treats him with some small niceness. When the younger Kim gets to like someone, he is devoted to that person. Kim Hong-gul seems to have been emotionally wounded by his father's past suffering.

Hong-gul was not very talkative at home when he was young. When he spoke, he did so brusquely. When his mother asked something, he seldom answered. When he saw Kwon Roh-kap or Kim Ok-doo, the closest aides of his father, all he said was "How are you?"

Kim Hong-gul did not have many friends. He followed professional basketball and football. He did not show much interest in what other people were doing. He excelled in puzzles and computer games, probably because he liked to be alone.

Someone close to Hong-gul described him as a "person who is as transparent as air."

Choi Gyu-seon is the complete opposite of Kim Hong-gul, and is very sociable. Mr. Choi went after then-powerful politicians during past administrations. When Chun Doo-hwan was president, Mr. Choi was linked to Chun Kyung-hwan, a brother of Chun Doo-hwan. When Kim Young-sam was president, Mr. Choi helped Choi Hyung-wo, one of the closest aides of Kim Young-sam.

Mr. Choi boasted about his relationship with Choi Hyung-woo. He said he arranged the meeting between Choi Hyung-woo and Bill Gates. "But that's not something that can be verified," a Blue House official said.

Choi Gyu-seon's academic background is unclear. He said he holds a doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He said Robert A. Scalapino was his academic adviser at Berkeley. Kim Joong-kwon, then chief of staff of the Blue House, interviewed Mr. Choi at the beginning of this administration, and now says, "It was strange from the beginning. When I asked him a simple question about professor Scalapino's area of concentration, he gave me an irrelevant answer."

Mr. Choi's career path is also uncertain. Kim Joong-kwon checked Mr. Choi's personal references. Mr. Choi has a history of being arrested on charges of fraud. Reportedly, Mr. Choi is involved in some lawsuits in the United States. Kim Joong-kwon called in Mr. Choi and said, "There is no position available for you at the Blue House." Thus, Mr. Choi's entry to the Blue House suffered a setback.

Then, Mr. Choi approached Kim Hong-gul. The two, who first seemed to be unsuitable for each other, started mingling. From Los Angeles, Mr. Kim began making trips to Seoul more often. On one trip here, Mr. Kim did not stay at the Blue House but somewhere else. This was the first time this happened. The first lady worried a great deal about her third son. She called someone close to her youngest son and asked that person to give her son some advice. "Please tell him to concentrate on studying." Apparently, Lee Hee-ho could not tell him herself.

The first lady has always been like this. She was afraid to hurt her son's feelings. She kept that attitude toward her son even after he became an adult. Now Kim Hong-gul is said to be concerned about his own son. Apparently, Kim Hong-gul's son is much like Kim Hong-gul when he was young.

The first lady was unaware of the fact that her son was mixing with Mr. Choi. Some people advised Mr. Kim to sever his relationships with Mr. Choi, but whenever this happened, Kim Hong-gul told Mr. Choi everything. In the end, those who gave such advice to Mr. Kim became distant from him. They sometimes got into trouble because of the advice. Kim Joong-kwon said he experienced conflicts with the MDP regarding Mr. Choi.

The problems stemmed from Mr. Choi. Though everyone knew about Mr. Choi, nobody was able to stop him because Kim Hong-gul was behind Mr. Choi. That is why there's always a risk to run when using political power.

Mr. Choi also approached the Grand National Party, when everybody said Lee Hoi-chang, front-runner in the GNP's primary, would become the next president. Mr. Choi then began currying the favor of Lee Hoi-chang's close aides and family members. This was a start of a new business for Mr. Choi.

It is fortunate, though not enough, that so much of this has been revealed. But if we have to be this fortunate, what does that do for us politically?


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The writer is a political reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Youn-hong

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