&#91EDITORIALS&#93Presidents and the law

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[EDITORIALS]Presidents and the law

The Seoul District Public Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday asked a court to order former President Chun Doo Hwan to provide a list of his assets in order to collect outstanding fines of 200 billion won ($165 million). Mr. Chun was ordered to pay 220.5 billion won by the Supreme Court in April 1997 after being convicted of bribery, but he has paid only 31.4 billion won so far.

We applaud the prosecution for finally showing its determination to collect the fines by tracing his financial assets, but the step is far overdue.

It is a national shame that a former president stashed away an astronomical amount of money while in office.

It is even more shameful that he has not paid the fine.

We now know that Roh Tae-woo, Mr. Chun's successor, had also been involved in corruption. But Mr. Chun has unabashedly stuck to an arrogant, "Make me pay" attitude.

Paying penalties is part of the basic morality of being a Korean citizen. The public believes Mr. Chun has a lot more money stashed away; he handled a lot of questionable cash, and has been seen frequently these days with former government officials who served under him.

The prosecution deserves criticism for acting so slowly to collect the money.

First, during the investigation, the prosecution could not locate the cached funds.

The prosecution must bear its share of responsibility in procrastinating collecting the penalties.

The prosecution has so far failed to find the money, and the government has so far collected 31.4 billion won, only about 14 percent of the fine.

That shows a lack of commitment - a lack of integrity.

This case is a symbol of the rule of law. If Mr. Chun does not cooperate, the government may need to form a team to trace his assets.

Even though a person was the president of the country, he does not deserve honor if he refuses to abide by the laws of his country.
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