[EDITORIALS]Tainted detente?

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[EDITORIALS]Tainted detente?

Suspicions that the Kim administration bought the president's summit with Kim Jong-il are spreading. The issue will affect North-South relations and will also be a political issue, perhaps with enough power to determine the outcome of the election in December if the charges are proven correct.

It is not difficult to predict that the gory fight between the Grand National Party on one side and the government, National Intelligence Service, Millennium Democratic Party, and Hyundai on the other, will go on for some time. The GNP is pressing, charging that Hyundai Merchant Marine delivered the proceeds of a 400 billion won ($325 million) loan from the Korea Development Bank to the NIS, and the South-North meeting in June 2000 was delayed when the wire transfer of the funds to the North Korean government went awry. The government and the NIS are denying all those allegations. When the bank said that the loan was indeed legitimate and that the Hyundai subsidiary has already begun repaying it, the GNP refused to concede, saying that paying back only 140 billion won is not an immense achievement.

This dogfight will probably be difficult to control, since both parties know that a loss here will lead to snowballing losses. This matter should nevertheless be settled, and President Kim Dae-jung must be the man to do so. Because he is at the center of these suspicions, he must clarify all the details of the matter by disclosing the details of the summit talks and financial transactions with the North if he wants to leave no thread of doubt behind. Hiding behind general statements like "We have kept honorable relations with the North" will only worsen the situation.

The government must reconsider why the people are listening to the charges even after the adamant denials by government authorities. The government's claims that it is transparent in its support to the North are not getting a sympathetic reception, and the doubts have been augmented by its questionable support to Hyundai, which was in charge of the Mount Geumgang tourism venture.

The political turmoil surrounding this issue will leave the nation anxious and its economy bruised. President Kim must lay out the details if he wants to keep his stature as the architect of detente on the Korean peninsula.

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