[EDITORIALS]Defense probe neededA retired general and arms dealers were arrested by police on bribery charges related to military procurement contracts. In the aftermath of the bribery probe, it is likely that Representative Chun Yong-taek of Our Open Party will be ordered to appear for questioning. It may also widen into a major corruption scandal involving arms procurement and military personnel policy under the Kim Dae-jung administration.
From December 1998 to November last year, Lee Won-hyung served in the defense ministry’s procurement bureau, including as head of the Defense Quality Assurance Agency. He was arrested on charges of receiving 131 million won ($110,000) in bribes from an arms manufacturer on 23 occasions. As police investigated the case, more irregularities unfolded. The police investigated a borrowed name account containing 2.7 billion won and found traces of money coming from three senior military officials. The money was probably in return for promotion opportunities, police said. While investigating arms dealers, police obtained testimony and evidence that they gave money to Mr. Chun, who chaired the National Assembly’s Defense Committee in 2000.
The investigation so far shows the case could become a major scandal involving bribes in return for winning procurement and promotion benefits. Mr. Lee received large bribes for a relatively simple procurement project. As an astronomical amount has been invested to improve our defense capabilities, we suspect more irregularities. Evidence that Mr. Lee received bribes for an Apache attack helicopter project, and that Mr. Chun was involved in other bribery, was found.
Mr. Lee also allegedly influenced military personnel appointments, abusing his power based on his regional ties during the last administration.
The problems are serious and it is time for the defense minister to act. The case should not be left to the police alone, since their capacity is limited. From the corrupt arms deals to the deliberate neglect of duty by the military investigation authorities, the minister must give orders to probe thoroughly.