[NOTEBOOK]Ex-leader’s disgrace trickles downSeeing the disgraceful behavior of former President Chun Doo Hwan, who has yet to pay the huge additional charge the court ordered in compensation for his wrongdoings, and his family makes me feel ashamed as a Korean. Watching this deplorable situation, I wonder about the future of Korea. Former President Chun cannot apologize to the people enough, even if as an act of repentance he returns all 189 billion won that he illegally hoarded and pays punitive damages.
His second son, for whatever reason, transferred about 10 billion won to the United States after laundering it. Mr. Chun’s brother-in-law went even further, buying an annex to Mr. Chun’s house at auction and letting the former president continue to live there.
These things shouldn’t have happened. The expression “moral destruction,” which goes beyond “moral hazard,” seems to perfectly describe these happenings.
A Korean proverb says, “When the upstream is clear, the downstream is clear, too.” In other words, even in a family, there is hope when adults set a good example. I am greatly concerned over how the values or morals of the future generation will be affected by the behavior of the former Korean president, who is deceiving the people.
When the court decided to collect all his hidden private assets last spring, the former president’s remarks that he had only 300,000 won ($250) worth of property were met with derision by Koreans.
After claiming poverty, he enjoyed a round of golf at a course near Seoul, with money that seemed to have come from nowhere. He even recorded a hole-in-one, perhaps because of his remaining precious money.
According to a caddie who accompanied him at that time, the former First Lady Lee Soon-ja planted a tree in her name to commemorate his hole-in-one. It doesn’t matter who hit the hole-in-one. What matters is that the person, who had a tree that cost millions of won planted in his honor, mocked the court’s decision by saying that his entire property was worth only 300,000 won. The government authorities have a clear responsibility for confiscating the money Mr. Chun had accumulated by shady means.
Mr. Chun’s second son’s diversion of a huge amount of foreign currency is almost tantamount to the acts of an infamous criminal. His second son, Chun Jae-yong, hid his father’s suspected slush funds through the family account of a female TV star after laundering about 10 billion won by buying industrial financial bonds in the private money market.
Mr. Chun’s brother-in-law Lee Chang-seok, who said he would return the annex of the former president’s house after winning it at auction, had accumulated money through various projects that required special privileges for about 10 years, from the early 1980s, when Mr. Chun seized power, to the time when former President Roh Tae-woo, Mr. Chun’s close friend and comrade in his military coup, took office. This means that his brother-in-law, known as a man of wealth, had also made his fortune unfairly.
After the auction of Mr. Chun’s annex was reported, people cynically imagined this exchange:
Mr. Chun: “Thank you for the money, brother-in-law.”
Mr. Lee: “Don’t mention it, brother-in-law. I’ll let you continue to live there.”
This is a joke that can gloss over the essence of a good Korean proverb: “Good to the sister, and good to the brother-in-law.”
As a citizen, I would like to ask former President Chun to collect all the money dispersed among his children, brothers and relatives and use it humbly toward the development of Korea as a sign of repentance. It is better late than never. It doesn’t seem to be a tall order.
* The writer is the managing editor of the JoongAng Daily.
by Shin Joong-don