[FOUNTAIN]Kang Sam-jae is on the horns of a dilemmaKang Sam-jae used to call former President Kim Young-sam “father.” Mr. Kim called Mr. Kang by his first name. Both politicians are known for their short tempers and straight talk. Both have the experience of putting everything at risk at a crucial moment.
The two men met in 1985. At age 33, Mr. Kang was elected to the National Assembly for his first term. He had been a follower of Kim Dae-jung, but when he began to support Kim Young-sam, the opposition leader treasured Mr. Kang’s loyalty.
When Kim Young-sam was elected president, Mr. Kang was named secretary general of the ruling party. His nickname was “Kangchong,” a pun that is both an abbreviation of “secretary general Kang” and a “strong secretary general.” Mr. Kim would call “Kangchong” to the Blue House at least once a week. Mr. Kang served as a messenger for the president. According to Mr. Kang’s lawyer, Mr. Kim gave 90 billion won to Mr. Kang on several occasions during this time to be used for the 1996 legislative elections.
At the end of October 1995, I asked Mr. Kang about the fate of two preceding presidents, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo. He responded, “They will be arrested.” I asked if it was necessary to put the former presidents in jail, and he said that the historical truth must be unveiled.
Eight years later, Mr. Kang and Mr. Kim are in the shoes of the former presidents. Did Mr. Kim really punish his predecessors for their corruption on the one hand and put 90 billion won in Mr. Kang’s pocket on the other?
Mr. Kang spent his 20s leading student movements against the authoritarian military regimes. Through his 30s and 40s, he served Mr. Kim, virtually made him a president and believed that Mr. Kim’s success would lead to the prosperity of the nation.
Now in his 50s, Mr. Kang is in a dilemma. Should he keep faith with Mr. Kim, speak the truth, or pursue his own happiness? He announced his resignation from his political career, but that hasn’t stopped the controversy. The public will not let him spend his days in peace.
Mr. Kang might have to start addressing Mr. Kim by his name instead of calling him father. They might have to give up their personal trust, friendship and integrity. Let’s hope Mr. Kang doesn’t disappoint us by saying, “I cannot confirm anything” in court.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.