[EDITORIALS]Inappropriate golf partnersAmong those who attended Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan’s golf excursion on March 1 were people convicted of providing illegal political funds and manipulating stock prices. Soon after this became public, Mr. Lee apologized and said that he would report his future plans to President Roh Moo-hyun after returning from Africa. Many believe that the prime minister will resign.
There is nothing wrong with playing a game of golf. The problem is whether it was the right time and if the gathering was only for golf. Looking at the list of participants, it is difficult to accept the prime minister’s explanation that it was merely an opportunity to get acquainted with local businessmen. Attendees included two entrepreneurs who were fined for handing illegal political funds to Choi Do-sul, the former presidential aid for general affairs and a long-time servant of Mr. Roh. There was also a businessman who had been convicted of stock price manipulation and another who the Fair Trade Commission had been investigating for price tampering. In response, the Office of the Prime Minister complained and questioned whether it was responsible for inquiring about attendees ahead of time. But it is quite natural for the prime minister’s aides to take a look at who is accompanying the nation’s no. 2 leader. Their failure to do so is why some businesspeople in the Busan area are complaining that most of the attendees had personal ties with Mr. Lee or other members of the ruling party.
There also is a problem with the initial explanation from the prime minister’s office. It initially refused to name the people who attended, explaining that it had been a gathering with members from the Busan Chamber of Commerce and Industry that had been planned a long time ago. But with the list now public, it only leaves doubts as to whether it was trying to cover up the truth.
Whether the prime minister steps down is for Mr. Lee and the president to decide. More important is that high-ranking government officials do not attend ill-timed golf sessions with inappropriate people in the future.