[INSIGHT]Former leaders should confessMany people are put off by the behavior of our former presidents these days. One would think that someone who has been the president of a country would be above lying and avoiding responsiblity.
Why is Chun Doo Hwan keeping silent when a large amount of money that was unaccounted for was found in a secret fund amassed by his second son? This is the man who claimed that he only had 290,000 won ($248) to his name, and even put the dogs he had raised up for auction. It now appears that Mr. Chun will be questioned by the prosecutors again concerning this secret fund.
It is a national disgrace that such a man could have once been our president. Why can’t he just come clean about everything? Why can’t he just give everything up by saying, “This is all I have. Take it all.” He would hardly starve afterward. This is cowardly behavior for a man who had four stars on his uniform and ruled as president for seven years. Even those who praised him for stabilizing the economy during his rule are left with little to say in his defense now.
Mr. Chun is not the only one. What about Kim Young-sam? Mr. Kim should have opened his mouth before Representative Kang Sam-jae stood in court to testify that it was the former president who had given him money to deliver to the his party. It would have been more dignified to have come forward and said, “I am the person responsible for this affair.” However, Kim Young-sam did not open his mouth until his once closest aide, Mr. Kang, was on the verge of going to jail.
It now looks like it will only be a matter of time before the final responsibility for the money is indeed placed on Mr. Kim. It is not behavior befitting a leader to see his subordinates go to jail while he avoids his own responsibility in a desperate attempt to preserve his name. Mr. Kim always claimed that his biggest achievement would be to set history right. It is a pity that he himself is distorting history right now.
Kim Dae-jung is no exception. Several of Mr. Kim’s aides were tried and sent to prison for their involvement in sending secret funds to North Korea. Whom must they have been working for?
It seems unlikely that Kwon Roh-kap, who managed a huge amount of political funds and gave money privately to his party’s candidates, would have done such a thing solely on his own and for his own gain. But, Kim Dae-jung has yet to say anything and share the blame with his aides. Is he indeed free of blame in the cases of the secret funds to North Korea and illegal political funds?
This shabby custom of bosses shunning responsibility and sacrificing their subordinates goes against both a legal and moral sense of propriety. Unfortunately, it has continued for generations and is still going on. Several important figures in the Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Hoi-chang camps have followed one another to jail for the illegal campaign funds in the 2002 presidential election. Yet Mr. Roh and Mr. Lee, who used that money in their campaigns, are still alive and kicking.
Recently, 200 members of the Anglican priesthood in Korea visited Our Open Party to protest the indictment of Lee Jae-jung, an Anglican priest and former legislator. A priest protested, “Why is Mr. Lee being punished for merely delivering the money when the president, who actually used the money, is left alone?” Mr. Lee himself expressed his utter regret and apologies to the people but the final recipient of the money has not said a word on the affair.
Mr. Lee is not the only one. Ahn Hee-jung, Lee Kwang-jae, Kang Geum-won and Moon Byeong-ok, close aides of President Roh, and legislators Chyung Dai-chul and Lee Sang-soo are some of the numerous people who gave and received money for someone else and were sent to jail for it. Yet President Roh is not saying a word.
There are all kinds of rumors about how the president must have received the money personally but the president himself remains silent. Why can’t the president say something? Why can’t the president just state that it is all his fault and not the fault of his aides?
The same goes for Lee Hoi-chang. After Mr. Lee admitted that everything was his fault and offered to go to jail, more illegal funds have been uncovered. Mr. Lee is not saying anything.
Does he really not know anything about this money? Didn’t he say in his last news conference that the firms gave the money to his party because of him? Shouldn’t Mr. Lee help free his aides who went to jail in his place? A person who dumps all the blame on his subordinates and takes all the glory for himself cannot be a true leader. The custom of cowardly bosses is another huge vice in our politics that we must overcome urgently.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Song Chin-hyok