[EDITORIALS]Justice for all. No exceptionsThe prosecution’s investigation into the alleged irregularities surrounding Hanwha Group’s takeover of Korea Life Insurance Co. is entering its final stage: The Central Investigation Bureau of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office began its legal actions yesterday with the questioning of Kim Yun-bae, vice chairman of Hanwha Securities.
The prosecutors said they have no solid evidence that Hanwha Chairman Kim Seung-youn was involved in the allegations. Some say that Mr. Kim will be questioned next ― if only for the sake of formality ― so that the prosecution can exempt him.
According to the prosecutors’ investigation of Kim Yun-bae, he sent an aide to then-Finance Minister Jeon Yun-churl in September 2002 and tried to deliver 1.5 billion won ($1.5 million) worth of bonds. Mr. Jeon rejected the bribes at the time, the prosecution said.
Who can believe that such a huge sum was to be paid without the head of the business group being aware of it?
We have to watch how the prosecution proceeds, but are skeptical as to whether the finance minister was the sole target of Hanwha’s lobbying. The takeover of Korea Life Insurance was not a matter for a finance minister alone.
Before the 2002 takeover, Hanwha Group ranked 16th on the asset list of large business groups; the take over thrust it into fifth place. Hanwha had had no recorded profits for the decade after 1993, and its losses in 2001 amounted to 580 billion won. But Korea Life Insurance recorded 800 billion won in profits that year.
This, simply put, is why allegations that Hanwha illegally lobbied to win the deal persist.
During its investigation into illegally-raised presidential election campaign funds, the prosecution learned that Hanwha bought 9 billion won worth of bonds from private loan markets around September 2002. That was about the time Hanwha was selected as the buyer of Korea Life Insurance. The prosecution later said Hanwha paid about 6 billion won of the bonds to politicians during the election. Their probe failed, however, to account for the remaining 3 billion won.
The prosecution now has a clue. No matter who is involved, even if it is a high-profile figure of a past administration, all charges must be investigated and the truth laid bare. The prosecution must not downscale its investigation for political reasons.