&#91EDITORIALS&#93No nearer the truth in Nara

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93No nearer the truth in Nara

The attorney for Kim Ho-joon, former chairman of Nara Merchant Banking, said Mr. Kim told prosecutors that he gave money to Ahn Hee-jung and Yeom Dong-yeon, close aides to President Roh Moo-hyun, last June. The prosecutors have taken a very negative attitude on investigating allegations that Mr. Kim, the largest shareholder of Nara, had tried to bribe the company out of bankruptcy.
Last year, prosecutors said they could not go ahead with the investigations because Mr. Kim denied the charges, even when rumors were rife that Mr. Kim bribed close Roh aides. The prosecutors recently said they would not summon Mr. Ahn nor Mr. Yeom for testimony because Mr. Kim denied the bribery allegations.
Remarks by Mr. Kim’s lawyer, if they are true, bring to light that the prosecutors have deliberately covered up the case to test the mood of politicians. The prosecutors cannot delay the investigations any longer, since Mr. Kim’s attorney has testified that cash had been delivered to Mr. Ahn and Mr. Yeom. The prosecutors must verify whether the money found its way to the two men, where the money went if the two aides received it and whether there are any other irregularities in the case. The prosecutors should not hesitate; President Roh demanded a thorough investigation to dispel “political considerations.” Mr. Kim’s attorney said the money was donated for business purposes. But it is hard to believe that 250 million won ($199,000) could be delivered to a political figure without expecting favors in return.
Mr. Kim reportedly created a slush fund of 23 billion won, but only a portion of the money has been uncovered. There is also the question of how Nara Merchant resumed operations in 1998, resulting in the injection of 2.9 trillion won of public bailout funds.
If the prosecutors fail, the case could develop into a political issue and an independent counsel might be called in to conduct an inquiry. Prosecutors should seize this opportunity to recover public confidence through a thorough investigation.
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