[EDITORIALS]An appalling thought

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[EDITORIALS]An appalling thought

Claims by Grand National Party lawmakers that the government secretly sent $550 million to North Korea are too appalling to bear. If the allegations are true, the payoff should not be looked at as a shady, closed-door deal, but as a grave matter putting national security at risk. It is deplorable that the government and not private enterprise allegedly paid the North to take part in the historic North-South summit in 2000. To do so would have put the South in the North's power.

The GNP lawmaker Eom Ho-sung alleges that the Korea Development Bank extended $400 million to the Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. on June 7, 2000, just before the summit. The money was delivered to the North through Hyundai Asan. Uhm Rak-ryong, former CEO of the state-run bank, said, "Then-president of Hyundai Marine, Kim Choong-shik, told me that the government was to repay the loan to the bank." Mr. Uhm also testified at the ongoing Assembly hearing that a meeting between the senior presidential economic adviser, the minister of finance and economy and the chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission was held at the Blue House to discuss the issue. Mr. Uhm's account is specific and closely resembles the circumstances that occurred. The allegations gain credibility from Mr. Uhm's remark that the then third deputy director of the National Intelligence Service, handling North Korean policies, assured participants not to worry.

The government and Hyundai officials strongly deny the allegations, but that is not enough to clear the doubts. Why did the Development Bank provide hundreds of billions of won to Hyundai Marine, which was undergoing serious liquidity problems? Hahn Hwa-kap, the Millennium Democratic Party chairman, said that the government provided the loan because it believed that if Hyundai went under, the entire nation would follow. But past records of the government and Hyundai make it hard to accept Mr. Hahn's explanation.

Suspicions of backdoor dealings with the North to come to the summit go further. The GNP lawmaker Lee Sung-hun alleged that in May 2000 the government sent $150 million to the North through Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co., so that President Kim Dae-jung paid the North in return for the summit.

People are appalled and angry and asking why the current administration hung on to the smiles of the North. The truth must be discovered immediately, for this is an issue that may shake the very foundation of this nation.
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