[EDITORIALS]Innocent golf?Suspicions are snowballing over Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan’s golf game on March 1.
The prime minister’s office first said there was no other government official save Mr. Lee in the group of golfers, but the vice minister of education apparently was there. Mr. Lee’s companions also included a businessman whose company was fined by the Fair Trade Commission the day after the round.
Judging from appearances only, the outing could well have been a failed attempt to lobby the prime minister.
The key is knowing why that particular businessman was playing with the prime minister. His flour mill has been under investigation by the fair trade agency for the past few months; it was one of five companies suspected of price fixing.
The watchdog agency decided to impose a 3.5-billion-won ($3.6-million) fine on the company on Feb. 28 and announced that decision on March 2.
The commission said that because the golf round took place after it decided on the fine, it rejected any possibility that a hypothetical lobbying effort would have been successful.
Then, we wonder, why did the former Blue House senior secretary for education and culture and other bureaucrats tried to conceal the businessman’s participation? And, we should note, the businessman was not included on the list of people the Fair Trade Commission referred to the prosecution for further action in the price-fixing case.
The Korea Teachers’ Credit Union purchased 8 percent of the milling company’s shares last year, and that transaction was also suspicious.
The credit union said it was an innocent investment and that it had purchased shares of 20 small firms under its own investment principles; the milling company was one of them.
At that time, Lee Gi-woo, the vice minister of education, was the prime minister’s chief of staff. He served as the executive director of the credit union until July 2004. Mr. Lee is known to be close to the prime minister and accompanied him on this golf outing, deepening the suspicions.
Those involved attempted to conceal the truth with lies. This reminds us of the clothing lobbying scandal of the Kim Dae-jung administration.
The prime minister must tell the truth: Who arranged the golf and for what purpose. The vice minister should also say if he was involved in the Korea Teachers’ Credit Union’s investment in the milling firm.