[EDITORIALS]Win-at-all-costs mentalityPresident Roh Moo-hyun said half of the money he spent on his presidential campaign last year was from ordinary voters ― the “piggy bank” fund ― and that the 2 billion won ($1.7 million) debt he repaid as majority owner of a company had nothing to do with his campaign finances. He may have been trying to stress that his personal and campaign finances were separate. But key members of Mr. Roh’s fan club, Nosamo, face indictment for alleged campaign-law violations, suggesting that the president may have been elected with funds raised through illegal activities.
We remember how Nosamo members chipped in to Mr. Roh’s campaign fund. It was more than a fund-raising drive ― it became a phenomenon that pushed Mr. Roh’s campaign. But the prosecution regards the activities as illegal because they manufactured and marketed products ― the piggy banks ― that promoted a specific person (Mr. Roh) in violation of campaign law. Then how should we look at Mr. Roh’s election? Those indicted face a maximum prison term of two years or up to 4 million won ($3,300) in fines, but should that be the end of the issue?
It is impossible to gauge how much effect illegal activities had on the overall vote count, nor will the indictments change the result of the election. But can the idea that anything goes as long as the election is won be left unchallenged? The same can be said of three allegations hurled at the Grand National Party by the Millennium Democratic Party last year ― of draft dodging by the son of the GNP presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang, $200,000 in questionable contributions, and illegal campaign funds received from Kiyang Construction Industrial Co. All three charges were found to be baseless. The party who raised the allegations faces punishment. It is well that the truth has been found, but what of the reputations damaged in the process?
What we have is the perpetuation of the mentality that foul play may be overlooked as long as you win the election. Punishment for illegal campaign activities, such as personal and baseless attacks, must be swift. That would ensure that public opinion is not distorted and elections are fair.