[EDITORIALS]Follow the moneyThe prosecution has begun to investigate bank records to trace the 15 billion won ($12.5 million) that Hyundai Group allegedly gave to Park Jie-won, former President Kim Dae-jung’s chief of staff, in the course of promoting the inter-Korean summit meeting in 2000. And as the independent counsel’s mandate expired June 25, it banned 10 persons related to the case from leaving the country.
It is proper that the prosecution has taken these two steps. Since President Roh Moo-hyun denied the independent counsel’s request to extend its investigation, politicians have been considering appointing a new independent counsel. But nobody knows when the debate will end. While the Millennium Democratic Party is against appointing a new independent counsel, the Grand National Party is eager to expand the probe to include another 10 billion won stolen from the house of Kim Yeong-wan, who laundered the 15 billion won for Mr. Park.
Suspicion of Mr. Kim is growing. He is known to have laundered, aside from the 15 billion won for Mr. Park, more than 10 billion won in 2000, by using borrowed names. As that laundering occurred around April 13, the day for Koreans to elect a National Assembly, the possibility that the money was distributed as election funds could not be excluded. If investigation by either the prosecution or the independent counsel is delayed, the chance that evidence may be destroyed will grow.
The prosecutors say that investigating bank records and money-laundering does not mean a full-scale investigation. They say they will investigate bank records until the Assembly decides who will lead the investigation and hand over the results to the new team. There are rumors that the amount of slush funds Hyundai provided is several tens of billions of won, and that the money was funneled to politicians through an influential figure in the ruling party.
The prosecution should abandon its modest avowal of a merely temporary investigation. It must thoroughly investigate the source and destination of the money. Whether or not another independent counsel is appointed, the truth must be ascertained.