[EDITORIALS]A matter of degree?The vice minister of agriculture has abruptly resigned. He received 1 million won ($873) from a fellow high school alumnus who works at an affiliated body of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Kim Joo-soo’s resignation is regrettable in that a vice minister’s post is the highest position that a career government official can aspire to. A career civil servant serves his whole life to get there. It is a chance that is granted to only a few talented ones. The vice minister had to go, dishonorably, because he accepted 1 million won.
A bribe is a bribe whether it is one won or 1 million won. The vice minister obviously erred in accepting the money. Others working in the government should take his case as a reminder and be wary of their actions.
Around the same time, a governing party lawmaker issued a statement in which he disclosed, “I accepted 100 million won from a businessman in 2000 which I used to survey public opinion, when I was heading the legislative elections campaign for the Millennium Democratic Party.”
Even if the money should be defined as illegal political funds, the statute of limitations is three years. Thus, the lawmaker would not be held accountable.
The question here is whether the public will understand and accept these two cases. One person’s life time of work has disappeared because of 1 million won that he accepted, while another seems to be doing well even after accepting 100 million won. Would anyone call this fair?
Judging by the tone of his press statement, the lawmaker does not sound too contrite. “I will work harder for clean politics,” he said. “There was no talk of favors asked or interests involved with the 100 million won.”
When a case does not violate the law and the person is not morally accountable, it should not be a problem. No one can take issue with that, even if the money is 100 million won or more. But doubts remain. The Millennium Democratic Party said there was no record that such money was received by the party, and no one in the party heard about the money from the representative.
This is a case for the investigators to check. They must clarify the nature of the money and where it was spent. They should also probe other politicians who received money from the same businessman. Then we will see that the law is being enforced.