[EDITORIALS]200 million questionsA top official within President-elect Roh Moo-hyun’s transition team has finally addressed the alleged secret funneling by Hyundai Merchant Marine of $200 million to North Korea. And his reaction is disappointing. Moon Hee-sang, the Blue House chief-of-staff designate, yesterday said that the issue should be resolved through a political consensus between the ruling and opposition parties. Mr. Moon emphasized that since the audit body has disclosed that the money indeed had been sent to North Korea, the substantial truth has been revealed, dispelling the need for a further and more formal inquiry. We disagree. The germane issues here are the why, the how and the what amounts and through what channels was the money secretly sent to the North by Hyundai Merchant Marine just before the South-North Korea summit of June 15, 2000. Another esoteric question is whether the money sent was legal. In addition, we need to know the government’s role, or more specifically, just how involved President Kim Dae-jung and his core aides were, and whether the National Intelligence Service was involved. Another doubt that should be addressed is why the Blue House, the government agencies and Hyundai are belatedly admitting to having sent the money after having vehemently denied doing so when the issue first broke out as political speculation.
What we know so far is that Hyundai handed over $200 million to make a business deal with the North, an admission wringed out of the hesitant company. Yet Hyundai’s admission is too easy and too simple, and it amplifies rather than clears doubts. But President Kim Dae-jung said that the matter cannot be subject to a legal inquiry, on condition that Hyundai’s admission is true. His comment suggests that he knew of the details of the development unfolded with the North. The inevitable next step is for the president, who may be the closest to the truth, to explain it as fully as he knows it. He is inviting snowballing suspicions and they will surely be headed his way.
The president-elect’s team is dancing to President Kim Dae-jung’s tune, saying that a significant amount of truth has come out. Mr. Moon, the chief-of-staff designate, has gone so far as to utter words that do not make sense or have any logic. Mr. Moon has said that it will be anachronistic politics and political vengeance if the prosecution begins an inquiry into a matter that began as political speculation. Furthermore, he seems to believe the matter is serious enough to trigger another Korean War. Why is getting to the truth of the matter a political offense and anachronistic politics? And how does sweeping foul matters under the rug, and expecting the public to merely toe the line of the nation’s chief executive, constitute new politics? And on what grounds does Mr. Moon believe that a formal inquiry will bring about another war?
We do not yet believe that Mr. Moon was speaking officially on behalf of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun. The president-elect, in his debriefings, stressed that the nation should prepare for an independent counsel’s inquiry into major scandals, including Hyundai’s mysterious loan taken out from the Korea Development Bank. But our antennas are up and sharpened because Mr. Moon has spoken before, in mid-January, when he said that if the Kim Dae-jung administration reveals the truth, and if the truth should be anything close to the speculation, that it should be considered a political decision made by a chief executive. Even North Korea is dancing to the same tune. Such circumstances have some questioning whether there was fine-tuning between the Kim Dae-jung administration and the incoming administration, and between Hyundai and North Korea.
With the incoming administration and the incumbent administration looking for a political resolution to Hyundai’s sending money to North Korea, the politically savvy prosecution seems hesitant to begin an inquiry. Perhaps their inquiry may only end up disappointing the public. All of this leaves no other choice for the president-elect but to tackle the matter squarely. In other words, he must name an independent counsel to get at the truth. Only when the truth is formally proven, can we determine whether it was indeed a political decision of a chief executive or whether the administration overlooked an illegal business deal of a private group.