[EDITORIALS]Trace those Hyundai loansIt was found that Hyundai Merchant Marine not only received 490 billion won($400 million) in loans from the Korea Development Bank in 2000, but also an additional 500 billion won in 2001. The state-owned bank's lending to the shipping firm tallied 42.5 billion won by the end of 1999. The figure grew to 400 billion won at the end of 2000; 905.8 billion won as of the end of 2001.
It is a highly exceptional practice for a financial lender to increase by twofold in a year loans to a certain firm. Compounding the mystery of the bank's behavior is that the Korea Development Bank pushed aside Hyundai Merchant Marine's main creditor bank, which is the Korea Exchange Bank, to in effect serve as the main creditor bank.
The bank said that the loans were merely made out to a company that was facing a liquidity crunch. However, taken against a background in which Hyundai Merchant Marine was the major shareholder for Hyundai Asan, the developer of North Korean projects such as Mount Geumgang tourism, suspicions are deepening that the loans may have been preferential ones made in order to keep Hyundai's North Korean business afloat. It doesn't make sense that the shipping company, under a cash crunch itself, would invest in Hyundai Asan. The Korean Development Bank simply promised to make an additional loan the following year. Authorities and those concerned should investigate how the 2001 loans were made and how those loans were spent. It's necessary that an inquiry be made to let the public know whether the state-owned bank managed itself.
Moreover, of the $400 million in overdraft loans extended in 2000, Hyundai Merchant Marine first withdrew it in three large checks and then further divided that sum into 64 checks. In addition, recent findings reveal that in August 2000, economic policymakers met about 10 times behind closed doors in the Blue House. The biggest obstacle standing in the way of those tracing these loans is not the law but the silence of those in charge.