&#91EDITORIALS&#93Time to return, Mr. Kim

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[EDITORIALS]Time to return, Mr. Kim

Kim Woo-choong, the former Daewoo founder and chairman and a fugitive from justice, told the U.S. business magazine Fortune that "the president ordered me directly by phone before the workout to go away for a short period." It is a shocking statement, more jarring than any of the speculation that political powers might be behind Mr. Kim's disappearance and three years on the lam, following the collapse of the Daewoo Group and charges of accounting fraud.

Skepticism has grown about whether the nation's prosecution and the police are serious about doing their jobs, especially after news about meetings between Mr. Kim and his friends and family. In his interview with Fortune, Mr. Kim gives voice to speculations of political patronage. The Blue House said Fortune never confirmed the facts with them, but they should know this is no matter to avoid.

Mr. Kim's actions belie his former demeanor of that of a world-leading businessman. He is wanted on charges of manipulating Daewoo's books by playing with the payments on exports or deleting records of loans. Financial institutions that lent money to the Daewoo Group have gone belly up, and his conglomerate has been broken up. His former colleagues and right-hand man have served time in prison. It is irresponsible for a man who has wrought such massive grief to express anger against the Korean government to foreign news media as he hides out in an unidentified country. On book cooking, he said, "It is not a big thing," and that it was the practice of the times and the Korean prosecution was out to frame him as a swindler. Such remarks give the impression that in no way is Mr. Kim admitting to his part in the demise of Daewoo.

President Kim Dae-jung should end questions concerning Mr. Kim's flight and Daewoo's demise. The alternative might be an embarrassing National Assembly hearing. The authorities should do their best to bring Mr. Kim home. The former Daewoo chairman should return voluntarily to face justice. It would be another big mistake on his part if he assumes that a new administration and the passage of time will cast him in a different light.
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