[INSIGHT]Let’s say good night to old waysThis is a case in which 3,000 people were victimized. It is a scandal involving a shopping mall that never materialized and 350 billion won ($297 million) in losses for investors. We, once again, ask you to listen to the cries of despair of the working people who lost all their savings because they applied to occupy a space in the mall that Goodmorning City Corp. said it would build.
A subpoena has been sent to the Millennium Democratic Party’s chairman, Chyung Dai-chul, ordering him to appear at the prosecution in connection with the shopping mall scandal. The prosecution makes it clear that its purpose is to investigate a simple criminal case, never mentioning a related investigation into political fund-raising, including contributions for the last presidential election. Nevertheless, the case is drifting further from a scandal on the same scale of malfeasance as the case involving Bongyi Kim, the Chosun-era legend who is said to have tried to sell the Daedong River. The affair is entering the realm of politics: “What politician received money and how much? You also received money, so why don’t we all disclose our finances for the presidential election?” It is indeed strange that criteria used to distinguish right from wrong in society should become useless, vague and confusing when applied to political issues.
Above all, the Goodmorning City shopping mall scandal should be approached on a grassroots basis as the prosecution says. The prosecution should first discover how to protect the property rights of the working people who lost money buying a small store in the mall and why this kind of fraud happened. Furthermore, for Mr. Chyung, a legislator representing the Jung-gu district of Seoul, where the mall was to be built, the case is a local petition in which he should take the lead in solving before doing any other job in the National Assembly. His response that he will appear at the prosecution after handling urgent matters for the National Assembly and his party shows that he has forgotten he is a representative of the people in his district.
As Mr. Chyung himself said that if it were true he had received 420 million won from Goodmorning City Corp., the correct thing for him to do as a politician would have been not to try to explain whether there were any receipts for the funds but to immediately refund the money to the ordinary people, those who shed their blood, sweat and tears to save it. And he should have appeared at the prosecution without delay, admitted that he was too short on money for the election to ascertain whether the source was legitimate and then apologized to the people.
Next, Mr. Chyung should have suggested that the party and politicians take this opportunity to revise the law to correct the bad practices of political campaigns. These are the steps normal politicians in normal societies take. Also, taking these steps even now is the way for politicians, prosecutors and the people to conduct themselves. If Mr. Chyung follows these steps, he may emerge as a politician who can sacrifice himself to upgrade our politics from a climate in which everyone is called a thief. He might take this opportunity to highlight himself as an “upgraded” heavyweight politician.
President Roh Moo-hyun’s confessions were also remarks in the wrong order. Mr. Roh diluted the assessment of the Goodmorning City scandal, which should be approached on the basis of those who were harmed, to a political issue. He should have asked the prosecution to investigate the case as it is; he should have made public the truth about the funds for the presidential campaign and then suggested ways to enhance the transparency of political fund-raising. What was the strong image of Mr. Roh, the presidential candidate, that led him to be elected? Was it not that of a just lawyer who fought for the rights and interests of ordinary people? Was not the identity of the so-called “reform forces,” who had followed Mr. Roh and are still assisting him, the same as his identity? If the savings of working people who toiled to make the money and invested it in a store in the mall were diverted to be used for political lobbying, should not these people be the first to feel outrage and urge the prosecution to investigate the scandal? Is it not the task of Mr. Roh and his aides to listen to the pained cries of the working people and recover the money through an investigation?
When the SK Global accounting scandal broke out, many people showed sympathy toward the company. They said the scandal was nothing new to make a fuss about because the accounting irregularities just happened to be exposed at that time and they had been practiced in the business community for decades. Their sympathy made sense. But once the window dressing on the fraud was removed, the case could not be viewed as old practices. The investigation has been carried out to prevent a recurrence of such wrongdoing and to take advantage of an opportunity to secure managerial transparency. The company is receiving due judgment by law. This is the principle: That wrong practices should be changed.
The present situation only drives us to despair. It shows that our politics are at a very low level. To help our political culture advance from low-level to a second- and first-class ranking, the Goodmorning City scandal should be handled strictly and fairly without leaving the “sacred areas” untouched. Without the pain of breaking the politicians’ shells of protection, a “good morning” will never truly arrive for our country.
* The writer is executive editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kwon Young-bin