[EDITORIALS]Lax oversight, lame excuses

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[EDITORIALS]Lax oversight, lame excuses

Hyundai Group has gone public with allegations of corruption against Kim Yoon-kyu, the group’s vice chairman, and the details are shocking. Mr. Kim reportedly embezzled 800 million won ($76,850) by inflating construction fees. He also used another 300 million won of company money for personal use. Mr. Kim was also accused of receiving kickbacks from business partners in connection with the Mount Kumgang tour programs.
Among the money he misappropriated, some was from the government’s inter-Korean cooperation funds provided to Hyundai. Hyundai Group did not announce how much of those funds were embezzled. Mr. Kim, however, apparently made off with state subsidies ― tax money ― and this case is no longer just about personal corruption. It reveals how poorly the government has been managing state funds. Under the title of inter-Korean business, the government appeared to have allowed a cat the run of the fish shop.
Mr. Kim’s alleged embezzlement of Hyundai Asan money is one thing, but the bigger issue is Mr. Kim’s misappropriation of inter-Korean cooperation funds, and the government must make public how the money was spent. But the Ministry of Unification is busy running away from its responsibilities. The ministry said the inter-Korean cooperation funds were not directly provided to Hyundai Asan, claiming that it cannot be said that government money was embezzled. That is absolute nonsense.
The Mount Kumgang tour program was on the brink of collapse, and the government spent 110 billion won to keep it alive. The Unification Ministry knows better than anyone why it chose to send funds to Hyundai through the Korea National Tourism Organization ― it was an effort to quiet criticism of preferential treatment for Hyundai Asan. But it now says, “We know nothing about it.” Is that an appropriate attitude for a government agency handling such large sums of money?
This case may be the tip of an iceberg of irregularities in inter-Korean economic cooperation programs. The Unification Ministry must stop its lame excuses in order to quiet public anger. The Board of Audit and Inspection and law enforcement authorities must investigate thoroughly the uses of inter-Korean cooperation funds provided to Hyundai and punish all responsible people when irregularities are found.
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