[EDITORIALS]A thorough investigationThe prosecution has practically concluded its investigation of Kim Woo-choong, former chairman of Daewoo Group, after prosecuting him with an additional charge of embezzlement under the Law on Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes. It disclosed that Mr. Kim allegedly embezzled 114 billion won ($110 million) from a fund operated by the group’s overseas finance organization for personal use.
But the suspicion that he used money to lobby and curry favor with politicians and government officials, and the obscure background of his departure from Seoul have not been clarified. The highest investigation authority questioned Mr. Kim, who came back after spending over five years abroad, for two and half months. We wonder what they did in the meantime.
The damage that the Daewoo collapse did to the Korean economy was enormous. As a result of book rigging of 41 trillion won and fraudulent loans of 10 trillion won, the government poured in 29 trillion won of public funds, but about 10 trillion won is not retrievable. The group became totally insolvent as Mr. Kim’s failures in investment, personnel management, collusion with politicians and opaque management were entangled. Therefore, the prosecutors should have warned the politicians and government officials concerned by revealing Mr. Kim’s suspected lobbying to prevent the group’s collapse. It could also be a lesson to other businesses.
Especially, the process of Mr. Kim’s escape should be made clear. In an interview with a magazine during his stay overseas, Mr. Kim said former President Kim Dae-jung told him to go abroad. In the course of the investigation, Mr. Kim stated that former senior presidential secretary Lee Ki-ho and former governor of the Korea Development Bank, Lee Keun-young, advised him to go abroad, assuring him of his management rights in six Daewoo affiliates. But the prosecutors decided it was difficult to hold them criminally responsible. We wonder whether there is a reason to be lenient to the previous government in connection with the Daewoo investigation.
The investigation shouldn’t stop at Mr. Kim’s wrongdoings. The investigation must continue even while court proceedings are in progress. Mr. Kim must confess everything, as he promised upon returning home. If he keeps silent on the pretext of his ill health, he will never be free from the stigma of a failed businessman.