[EDITORIALS]Hanwha on the hot seat

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[EDITORIALS]Hanwha on the hot seat

Speculation about wrongdoings in the Hanwha Group's acquisition of Korea Life Insurance Corp. is mounting. Grand National Party member Chung Hyung-gun has produced alleged wiretapping transcripts that would supposedly prove that Hanwha Chairman Kim Seung-youn improperly lobbied key government officials to acquire the life insurer. The records came with a note that said, "Chairman Kim and a Hanwha company chief executive discussed strategy for lobbying and then pressured Millennium Democratic Party member Chung Sye-kyun and a presidential aide."

What adds to the controversy of this theory is that the records were supposedly received from a National Intelligence Service high official who likely felt disgruntled and saw wrongs in the deal. So the controversy is now two-pronged: that there might have been influence from higher up in putting the sale of Korea Life together, and that the intelligence agency was wiretapping the parties involved. Naturally, there will be public opinion demanding to know the truth.

But it will be far from easy to get to the truth in this case. It appears nearly impossible at this point to verify the validity of the wiretapping records and whether the intelligence service was involved at all. There is also a dazzling array of people named in the theory, ranging from Blue House chief of staff Park Jie-won, the chairman of the Public Fund Oversight Committee, Kang Kum-sik, and the vice minister of finance, Yoon Jin-sik, to Millennium Democratic Party presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun and party chairman Hahn Hwa-kap. The people mentioned have brushed aside the idea of their involvement as nonsense.

The two questions, suspicions of lobbying and the alleged wiretapping, should be approached separately. Mr. Chung must produce a better explanation of how the material was obtained. Otherwise, the accusation will end as another "Believe it or not" theory. The National Assembly should form a committee to deal with the case, for there is enough material to justify questions and allegations. Also, the Blue House must be more forthcoming.
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