&#91EDITORIALS&#93Facts, please, Mr. President

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Facts, please, Mr. President

The way President Kim Dae-jung tries to brush aside the allegation that more than 220 billion won ($188 million) was channeled to North Korea is simply amazing. After a briefing by the Board of Audit and Inspection yesterday, Mr. Kim said, "It would not be appropriate to put the issue to judicial review, if the money was used for inter-Korean economic cooperation projects." This is a Blue House that has asserted that not one dollar was given to the North, as did the governing party. It is not denying the allegation now, and the president's suggestion that it is not a judicial issue is quite pathetic.

The focus of the matter is whether the government paid off the North to make a summit meeting between the two Koreas possible. The president and Hyundai Merchant Marine, which is believed to have wired the money, say it was needed as part of inter-Korean economic cooperation. If this is so, then why did the Blue House not admit it when the issue first arose? If the "special nature" of inter-Korean relations made the government accept a nondisclosure agreement, then why keep up denials when the country was turned upside down with suspicion, and why sue the people who made the allegation?

It is difficult to accept the president's suggestion that it was all for the promotion of continued progress in inter-Korean relations and future benefits to the country, including peace and stability. Hyundai, which had been denying everything, is now saying that the money was used for the Gaeseong industrial project it is pursuing. But there had been no agreement on Gaeseong when the money was allegedly sent. The circumstances point to the government forgiving Hyundai's engaging in illegal activities ?in violation of the Foreign Exchange Control Act and the Inter-Korea Exchange and Cooperation Act ?to win projects in the North.

Mr. Kim said the peculiar nature of inter-Korean relations has forced some difficult decisions for him along the way. There is a precedent for extralegal activities in the history of inter-Korean relations. In the early 1970s, the head of the Korean Central Intel-ligence Agency, Lee Hu-rak, made a secret visit to Pyeongyang to set up a joint statement by the two Koreas. But the Hyundai case is different.

In trying to defend the allegation, Mr. Kim pointed to "peace and national interest." But this kind of cash, with such an obvious suggestion of payoff, cannot help the cause of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula or exchange and cooperation between the Koreas. That is why the focus is whether the money was paid as a reward for Pyeongyang to come to the summit table in June 2000. The vigorous denials by the Blue House and Hyundai cannot be explained otherwise. There have been allegations that the summit was put off by a day because of a delay in completing the deal.

President Kim should stop talking about what the government was entitled to do under administrative power and come out with the facts. He cannot brush aside this allegation. He will only become more pathetic when the National Assembly invokes its investigative power to get the facts out of him.
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