[EDITORIALS]Questions still unansweredFollowing an investigation of the scandal surrounding the Haengdam island development project, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office announced yesterday that it had indicted four people in the case, bringing to six the total number of people charged in the influence-peddling scandal. Indicted without detention were Moon Chung-in, former chairman of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative, and Jung Tae-in, former secretary for the national economy. Jeong Chan-yong, former Blue House senior secretary for personnel affairs, was not charged.
According to the investigators’ report, Mr. Moon forged an official document last September indicating the government’s willingness to support the development of Haengdam island, off the southwest coast. He took this forgery from securities firm to securities firm. Meanwhile, Mr. Jung threatened the Korea Highway Corporation with a Blue House audit if it refused to participate in the project.
Prosecutors are to be commended for holding these two responsible for their actions. But what remains unanswered is why Mr. Moon and Mr. Jung resorted to committing illegal behavior just to back the development project.
Prosecutors explain that the Haengdam development project was separate from the government’s southwest coast development plan, or S Project, and thus did not have to be reported to President Roh Moo-hyun. But Mr. Jeong discussed the S Project with Mr. Roh in June 2004, and Mr. Moon was found to have done the same. This begs the question of how these two officials could then have misidentified the Haengdam plan as part of the S Project, and continued their work.
The prosecutors’ argument that Mr. Moon and Mr. Jeong acted on the naive belief that the Haengdam deal would bring Korea a substantial amount of foreign investment is difficult to believe. If that was indeed the case, there is an even bigger problem. Naive government officials can do a lot of damage.
This latest investigation again exposed substandard, sloppy work by the Board of Audit and Inspection. In June, the board said that though the three former Blue House members behaved inappropriately, their exploits did not warrant criminal investigations. Now that its investigation has been shown to be lacking, the board must be held accountable for it.