[EDITORIALS]Answers please, Mr. Chung

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[EDITORIALS]Answers please, Mr. Chung

Lee Ik-chi, a former chairman of Hyundai Securities Co., dropped a bomb yesterday. He insisted that he was not the architect of the stock-price manipulation involving Hyundai Electronics, now Hynix Semiconductor Inc., and that it could not have happened without the order of Chung Mong-joon, then chairman of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co.

After years of keeping a low profile in the United States, Mr. Lee suddenly flew to Tokyo and took the skeleton from the closet. Presidential candidates must be thoroughly examined, he said, but we may need to keep a close eye on his true motivation. Yet, his statement, if true, completely alters a case that had been closed by the prosecution. His claim will resound in the election two months from now, which is why it must be scrutinized.

In 1998, the Hyundai Group mobilized its affiliates' capital to illegally drive up the stock price of Hyundai Electronics. Hyundai Electronics shares soared from 14,000 won ($11) to 32,000 won in less than six months. Mr. Lee was arrested as the sole culprit, but people speculated on whether Chung Mong-joon or Chung Mong-hun, chairman of Hyundai Asan Corp.'s board, were involved.

As a presidential candidate, Chung Mong-joon has never cleared suspicions. Before the Kwanhun Club, a social club of senior journalists, Mr. Chung insisted that he never knew that Hyundai Heavy had bought 8 million shares, worth 188 billion won, of Hyundai Electronics in 1998. Mr. Chung's spin doctors allegedly conjured up "sample answers" to protect him before the prosecution, and he allegedly made a huge profit by selling some of the Hyundai Electronics shares amid the scandal.

Mr. Lee also argued that before his death Chung Ju-yung, the late founder of the Hyundai Group and father of Mr. Chung, asked him to take care of the junior Chung.

Mr. Lee should come back to Korea and unearth the whole truth. At the same time, it is the responsibility of Mr. Chung to resolve suspicions. He must not ask for votes while dark shadows of jaebol management linger.

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