[VIEWPOINT]Charging ahead for what reason?Immediately upon hearing news of the prosecutors office investigating into the SK Group, I wondered, “Did they have some change of thoughts?” This is due to the fact that putting the third largest jaebeol under legal review does indeed involve a political calculation.
“I am not sure, I, too, wonder why the prosecutors office is doing it,” was the response from Kim One-ki, a lawmaker from the Millennium Democratic Party, when I met him on Feb 18, the day after the raid on the SK Group’s office. We both shared the belief that the development was adding a burden on the already sagging economy.
A few moments later, we spoke with Yoo Ihn-tae, who will be the senior secretary to President Roh Moo-hyun for political affairs. “I had an appointment with my brother, where SK’s chairman, Chey Tae-won, was expected to show,” he said, “I thought for a moment whether the timing was appropriate. I felt that the appointment was arranged a long time ago, so I went. As I had expected, he did not show.” He too was uncomfortable with recent events. Thus, it was evident the new government had no idea of the developments.
Reflecting on how the prosecutors acted in the past, it was difficult to assess why they would commence such a big case with this government in its final days.
The prosecutors must have taken into account that such a big case would raise more than a few eyebrows. So the motive can be summarized into three reasons. First, to win the favor of the new government, they could have wanted to be seen in harmony with President-elect Roh Moo-hyun’s plan to revolutionize the jaebeol. Another reason might be that they wanted to gain a legitimate and strong defensive position, in so far as their role goes, to set a precedent that they will not be handled politically. A way to show that is to demonstrate that they will investigate without strings attached or intervention from the powerful.
Finally, it could all be owing to their diligence in executing their duties. An official, who had worked in the prosecution stated, “Indeed, we felt the temptation to demonstrate our presence during times of a political vacuum, like when governments change.”
Fine, but how about the aftermath? Sure, doing one’s job is not to blame, but the timing could not be any worse. The North toying with nukes and the new government’s vague economic plan is keeping foreign investors on edge. The domestic economy is also far from stable.
What was on their minds to give the nation’s third-largest firm a spanking? The people’s sobriquet of “political prosecution” is a criticism of their subservience to political power. It does not mean that they should be ignorant of the nation’s affairs.
Furthermore, their decision to halt the investigation of Hyundai Merchant Marine; involvement in illegal money transfers to North Korea makes one wonder about the evenhandedness of justice. Now they are really in the political doghouse. Who is to solve the mess? Obviously, the new government.
In the political sphere, it is not so important what the truth is, what the people feel carries more weight. The day after its offices were raided and documents sealed and taken to the prosecutor’s office to be combed, SK contacted the press to state, “No political involvement is noted.” This comment was made after serious considerations. They knew that if the market caught wind of involvement of the new government in the prosecutors’ action, it would destroy their corporate value.
The best solution is closing the case while the nation is still focused on the Daegu subway tragedy. Even more urgent is taking a measure that can restore confidence in the market without damaging the new government’s plan to revolutionize the jaebeol.
Hear these words, “If the stock market falls below 400, the next National Assembly election would be futile.” a Millennium Democratic Party lawmaker said.
* The writer is the political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo