&#91EDITORIALS&#93Come clean, Mr. Chung

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Come clean, Mr. Chung

Chung Mong-hun, chairman of the board of directors of the Hyundai Asan Corp., who has shunned the public's request that he clear up suspicions surrounding the scandal that his company allegedly took out 400 billion won ($339 million) in bank loans and handed the money to North Korea, hurriedly departed for North Korea yesterday, just two days after his arrival from a long overseas trip.

By traveling to North Korea, Mr. Chung retained his ambiguous stance about the scandal, saying that he did not know exactly how much money the company borrowed, and said the reason for taking out the loans was to resolve cash shortages. His latest words betrayed a statement he made last year: During his stay in the United States, Mr. Chung had said that the allegations charging that Hyundai Asan provided the loans to Pyeongyang were not true, and that he might testify to the National Assembly if necessary. His behavior compels us to assume that his trip to the United States was to avoid the continuing suspicions surrounding the loans.

The attitude of the prosecution toward the scandal does not do much to gain the public's trust. The prosecution said that it will resume its investigations of the Hyundai company after the Board of Audit and Inspection finishes its special audit of Hyundai Asan, but there's no sign when that will happen.

President-elect Roh Moo-hyun has already asked for a thorough investigation by the prosecution, saying that there lingers suspicions of government-corporate collusion if that large an amount of money was extended secretly even if Hyundai did not give the money to Pyeongyang. The Presidential Transition Committee also demanded the submission of detailed data from the Financial Supervisory Commission.

We believe Mr. Chung must voluntarily address the related agencies and clear up all these doubts. Hyundai contends that a more urgent task for the company is to address its North Korean businesses that hit a snag. However, if the central figures in these suspicions played important roles in inter-Korean economic cooperation, further cooperation between the two Koreas may be endangered.
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