&#91EDITORIALS&#93The counsel’s independence

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93The counsel’s independence

The qualifications of the two people recommended by the Korean Bar Association to serve as independent counsel to investigate cash transfers to North Korea during the last administration are being questioned. At the root of the skepticism are their connections with a company and a bank that have been cited in the allegations. Woo Jung-kwon was a director of Hyundai Securities Co. from January to June 2000, and Song Du-whan was a director of Korea Exchange Bank, the major creditor of Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., from February 1999 to March 2002. Mr. Song received options to buy 45,000 shares in Korea Exchange Bank, and he still holds 15,000 shares.
These facts alone should not disqualify the men. There are no legal questions about them. There is no evidence to tie them to the currency exchange and cash transfer to the North. But we should ask whether the lawyers would be completely free of personal obligations to the companies that will inevitably be part of the investigation ― especially since their board service was around the time of the transfer. No matter how solid the investigation may be, when doubts about the key investigators linger, the result will be questioned.
The investigation will be unprecedented in that it is not handled by the prosecution. The work will have to begin from scratch, without the use of the considerable material put together by the prosecution. The fact that Mr. Woo and Mr. Song, former judges, have no experience in investigative work is another shortcoming. Would it not have been appropriate for at least one of the bar association’s nominees to have been a former prosecutor?
The bar association is responsible for any doubts raised about the qualifications of the nominees. It was keen to stress the personal character and professional expertise of the two men, while denying there was even a need to check their experience as directors for Hyundai and Korea Exchange Bank, which the bar says it had been fully aware of. This shows the association’s naivete. We cannot afford to have an independent counsel that the public cannot believe in; if that happens, the bar association will be fully responsible.
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