[EDITORIALS]One man knows the truthFormer President Kim Dae-jung tomorrow will tape a special Sunday talk program to mark the third anniversary of the June 15 Korea Summit between him and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il. He will have plenty to say and share, as the first president to hold a summit with a North Korean leader since the division of the Koreas. But what he should talk about is the truth concerning the $500 million in cash sent to North Korea.
Early in the year, when allegations swelled that the money was in return for the inter-Korean summit, Mr. Kim said that the money transfer was a “presidential prerogative,” beyond and above legal investigation. He skirted the basic question of how sending money to secure inter-Korean economic cooperation projects for Hyundai qualified as a presidential prerogative. That explanation divided public opinion, prompted North Korea to threaten the South, and eventually led to the independent counsel. Former aides, Hyundai group officials and bank representatives are straggling into the counsel for investigation. Press reports indicate that the counsel has developed evidence about how the $500 million was raised, how it was sent and what the nature of the money was.
The possibility that the money was secretly sent in connection with the summit appears to be increasing, given the context at that time, the testimony of sources involved in the process and the document submitted by Hyundai to the independent counsel. Several figures have been indicted. Former President Kim should disclose what took place, and show a willingness to own up, if need be. As he himself said it was a presidential prerogative, it would be cowardly and irresponsible for him to sit silent and let those who acted upon his orders be called to account. It is saddest for the bank officials, who had to extend the loans and send the money for Hyundai.
The former president would die a second political death if he were intent only on defending his actions. If he should show an earnest wish for public understanding and tolerance as he reveals the truth surrounding the money, the independent counsel’s investigation can proceed on to a new phase.