[EDITORIALS]Stop all illegal wiretaps

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[EDITORIALS]Stop all illegal wiretaps

Representative Chung Hyung-gun of the Grand National Party alleged on Tuesday that the chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission, Lee Keun-young, telephoned a senior prosecutor to seek a less than thorough review of the Korea Development Bank's $359-million loan to Hyundai Merchant Marine. In a taped telephone conversation, Mr. Lee is apparently heard saying to Lee Kwi-nam, who heads the criminal investigation division, "If the account is traced, there is no telling where the case will go, so limit it to a simple libel investigation."

What is bothering is that despite the government's protests, unauthorized wiretapping is widely used by the concerned authorities. Although Mr. Lee told the press that the content of the conversation he had with the prosecutor was a bit different from what Mr. Chung disclosed, neither party denies the fact that the conversation took place. What is so worrisome is that Mr. Chung's revelations were based on National Intelligence Service data gathered through bugs.

This is Mr. Chung's third disclosure based on the intelligence agency's data. On Sept. 24, Mr. Chung charged that the chairman of the Hanwha Group, Kim Seung-youn, ordered lobbying of government officials in order to acquire Korea Life Insurance. On Oct. 4, Mr. Chung alleged that presidential adviser Park Jie-won worked out a secret deal with a North Korean envoy named Yoshida to bring about the June 2000 inter-Korean summit. The revelations show that not only senior government officials but officials at the Blue House and top business leaders are being wiretapped.

Wiretapping is illegal and constitutes a crime under any circumstances. Eavesdropping by government agencies tarnishes the administration's ethical standard. If people cannot talk over the phone for fear of wiretapping, we no longer have a democratic society. Mr. Chung should not leak the information for partisan purposes; he must make clear how he got the wiretapped information and his knowledge of the intelligence agency's bugging. If he does, his disclosures will have more credibility.
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