&#91EDITORIALS&#93This theft is obvious

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[EDITORIALS]This theft is obvious

The Grand National Party lawmaker, Kang Sam-jae, declared yesterday that he will resign his National Assembly seat and retire from politics. Charged with diverting some 80 billion won ($69.5 million) from the national intelligence agency’s budget to the campaign fund for the then-ruling party, New Korea Party, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment at his first trial.
It is proper that Mr. Kang has decided to abandon his status as a lawmaker regardless of the outcome of his appeal to a higher court. It is shameless enough that the Grand National Party, which sprung from the New Korea Party, and its 200 members who are said to have benefited from the fund, is pressing a political offensive, blaming the court for a “political trial.”
The National Intelligence Service is at the forefront of national security. If a political party misappropriated money allotted to the agency, abusing easy access and special status to conduct audits, it has committed a serious crime that can shake the foundation of the nation. The Grand National Party, however, cooperated with neither the investigation by the prosecution nor the court proceedings. It has blocked the summoning of Mr. Kang for two and half years by using the Assembly to shield him and challenged the court three times during the legal proceedings.
Even if the investigation and trial were political retaliation by the ruling camp aiming at its political foes, how can a crime of stealing the national coffer be excused? It is not convincing to say without evidence that the money was part of political contributions channeled through the agency’s accounts, or that witnesses were impartial. If that were the case, how can the GNP criticize political funds distributed by Kwon Roh-kap as illegal?
Without repenting for corrupt practices of the past and showing the will for reform, politicians will be judged harshly in the forthcoming elections. Regardless of the political fallout, the crime of stealing government money should be sternly punished. If the GNP does not understand the call of the times -- to clean up corruption -- they will not take over the helm of government.
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