[EDITORIALS]Don’t stop the probe now

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[EDITORIALS]Don’t stop the probe now

The prosecution gave an interim report yesterday on its investigation of illegal presidential election funds. It is good that the prosecution has decided, for the time being, to stop summoning politicians and to go easy on the businessmen who bribed them. It said it was acting to minimize the effect of the probe on the elections next month and the impact on the economy.
But we still have a sense of dissatisfaction. The pertinent question is, “Is that all there is?”
The investigation was meaningful as a historical evolution of Korean politics and the development of the prosecution. The latter has, for the first time, investigated illegal funds used both by the winning and the losing parties. In the course of the investigation, shameful practices of black money dealing by politicians, including handing over the key of a truck loaded with cash, were exposed. Many aides to the president were arrested.
In its interim report, the prosecution said that Samsung Group gave 3 billion won ($2.6 million) to the president’s campaign, but no other of Korea’s largest four conglomerates did. Does that mean that the company that loaded 10 billion won on a truck and gave it to the Grand National Party didn’t give a penny to Mr. Roh’s campaign?
That is the reason why the impartiality of the investigation is being questioned. It is also improper that the prosecution did not investigate President Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Hoi-chang, the Grand National Party candidate, saying that there was no evidence of their involvement in the illegal fund raising.
This investigation should be made an occasion to cut the ties of collusion between politicians and businessmen. The management of political funds has to be made transparent. It is essential to provide ways to give the public a clear look at both the input and output of political funding. The draft political reform plan provided by the political community includes strengthened surveillance of output, but it lacks any surveillance on input. To stop transactions using large amounts of illegal funds, political funds must be included in the account-tracing conducted by the Financial Intelligence Unit. Punishments must be harsher and clemency controlled. Then violations of law will end.
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