[EDITORIALS]A Byzantine land dealPresident Roh Moo-hyun’s press conference notwithstanding, new questions arise regarding the land transaction made to repay debts owed by a bottled-water company formerly owned by the president. They involve the murkiness and frequent changes of story in the sale of land in Yongin, owned by Lee Gi-myeong, chief of President Roh’s political supporters group. Blue House aides do not seem to have a full grasp of the complicated transaction, and people concerned have tried to hide the facts. We wonder why the president held a press conference in the first place.
The first sale contract for the land, in August 2003, stated a price of 2.8 billion won ($2.3 million). It was sold for 4 billion won to another buyer in February, after the Roh administration took office. Why did the original buyer relinquish the contract? The Blue House said it was because the first sale was made in haste. It changed the story when Mr. Lee said that the first sale amounted to practically the same sum, 3.8 billion won, because the original buyer agreed in a secret contract to take on 1 billion won of Mr. Lee’s debt.
Mr. Lee said that the eventual buyer of the land was unknown to him before the transaction. But it turns out that one “Mr. Yoon,” the de facto owner of the “S” development company, which bought the land, was on such terms with Mr. Lee as to call him “Father.” This inspires the question whether the “S” company, which was set up just eight days before the transaction, was a ghost one. The suspicion is that land was bought and sold, several billions of won were counted, but it all took place in Mr. Lee’s palm. Not unreasonably does the opposition inquire whether the money involved in the transaction came from leftover election campaign funds.
The Blue House should address these questions and determine the facts, rather than watch and wait for Mr. Lee’s explanations. If criminal acts are found, the matter should be handed over to the relevant authorities. Mr. Lee and the others would do better to respond to the questions their explanations arouse. A dignified approach to explaining the mysteries is the only way to free President Roh from the suspicions accruing to the Byzantine transactions.