[OUTLOOK]A lost chance for the cash counselIt seems to be like missing a lost opportunity, but I write this for the future. President Roh Moo-hyun declined to prolong the period of the special investigation for the Kim Dae-jung government’s transfer of money to North Korea, and that means an opportunity was lost for those who had expected otherwise. And I am also one of them. My wish for the prolongation did not come from cheap curiosity and anxiety over to whom the Hyundai group’s 15 billion won ($12.5 million) was sent or how it was spent.
The justification to oppose the prolongation of the special counsel was, most of all, the possible effect on the relations between North and South Korea. The argument is that, in diplomacy between country and country, usually some things are revealed and others are hidden; therefore to reveal everything is not helpful for the interests of South Korea. That is right, especially when diplomacy is carried out between a country and an “anti-national body.” However, if that argument is to be really justified, two questions must be answered.
First, how much did the special counsel led by prosecutor Song Du-whan ruin inter-Korean relations? If the special investigation had not existed, would relations have been better? Looking into the recent situation between the two Koreas, the answer is likely to be negative. Also, except for the already announced facts, is there any secret that should not be revealed? If any secret really exists but should not be asked for the sake of national interests, we, as Korean people, cannot but obey even if we are anxious for answers. But if a question should not be raised because no secret is there, the order is hard to obey. There is something, and if not, why does it have to be hidden?
Also, the inside story is different from the ostensible reason. The opposition to the special investigation and its prolongation from the old faction in the Millennium Democratic Party is understandable as the loyalty and obligation to the former president, Kim Dae-jung. But the alliance of the new faction which is trying to form a new party is hard to understand.
Some say that the sentiment of Honam (the Jeolla region) people ― i.e., votes ― was considered, but I am very doubtful whether the Honam people really oppose an investigation that would respectfully treat the former president or the argument is just an assumption of the Millennium Democrats. If the report is true that the former President Kim wanted to appear in person for fairness rather than to apply for investigation by written request or by having someone visit his residence, he seems to be confident of his innocence in the face of the special counsel. And the judgment as to whether he lied or hid something for inter-Korean relations is up to the Korean people as well as the special counsel.
Reform is the outspoken motto of this administration. So it is not strange that each advocate for reform tries to follow the motto. But a lawmaker said a very strange thing in the July issue of the JoongAng Monthly, “The objective of a new party to be formed is reform. That means resolving the regional antagonism between Jeolla and Gyeongsang province, bringing an upheaval in Korean politics.”
That is strange because he said that reform was meant to resolve regional antagonism, but he actually suggested reform for the support of Honam people. Isn’t true reform that even if the Honam people oppose the investigation of President Kim, they must be dissuaded?
My problems with the loss of an opportunity for a prolonged special investigation are two. One is the danger of disruption, like an untied knot. When a controversy is to be solved, a device is needed. It can be an order from a king to let live or die or the declaration of a pope to obey or be expelled. Though the special counsel is not supported by king or God, I believe it is the device.
The special investigation should bring an end to suspicion and controversy. If the probe is not complete and a kind of “super-investigation” is necessary, that situation is very comical and wasteful. But that situation has been already presented, as the the opposition party aggressively called for another special investigation and President Roh suggested a veto.
Another problem is the failure of transparency in inter-Korean relations. In the past, a businessman set a precedent by paying a fee to enter North Korea. The intelligence agency noticed it and tried to make a change, but failed due to politics. And then the behind-the-scenes trade became a practice and the price rose. It was recognized that inter-Korean negotiations are naturally secretive, and it became an unwritten rule that no questions should be asked. What a convenient deviation. With the special investigation as an opportunity, we should have let our counterparts know that relations can no longer be secretive even if we wished. There are too many people who lost opportunities.
* The writer is a columnist of the JoonAng Ilbo.
by Joseph W. Chung