[EDITORIALS]The mayor’s tennis

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[EDITORIALS]The mayor’s tennis

Seoul’s mayor, Lee Myung-bak, is facing suspicions of corruption in regard to his tennis matches at the Namsan Tennis Courts. Looking at Mr. Lee’s reactions and behavior after the revelation, we fear that the morality of public servants is a serious issue.
Mr. Lee said, “I did not expect that the tennis issue would develop into such a big problem.” Then he said in his defense, “The part about the tennis court fees is something that I did not think of.” Such remarks mirror his happy-go-lucky attitude regarding the demeanor of public servants.
So what is the problem?
First, Mr. Lee played tennis without paying for all of three years. Although Mr. Lee says he played at the court at the invitation of the Seoul Tennis Council, Mr. Lee said he paid 6 million won ($6,120) to play, but that was only the fee for the courts in the second half of 2005. He was insensitive to the matter of 20 million won in fees that were due for his fees from April 2003 until August 2004. It is still not known who paid those fees, and we know nothing about how much in fees were due for his matches from then until the second half of last year.
Second, Mr. Lee made exclusive use of an establishment that belongs to the general public. He mobilized professional players who were national athletes to join him in his pastime, which is why the controversy also includes muttering about “the emperor’s tennis.” When Mr. Lee approved the construction of new courts in Seocho-dong, he said, “They are new facilities for senior citizens and teenagers.” The contrast makes him look a bit foolish.
Third, Mr. Lee opened himself to suspicions that he was corruptly lobbied in the course of his recreation. The organization that invited Mr. Lee has obtained the rights to run other sports establishments in Seoul. Also, the city government’s budget has doubled the allotment of money to the organization. The city also supported the construction of tennis courts in a makeshift building on a site that was originally planned to be a school.
All of these things tell us that this is not something that Mr. Lee can brush off by saying, “In some ways, I was not prudent.”
Mr. Lee must clearly speak up and tell the truth about the suspicions that have been raised, and then correct the things that have been done badly. He must also apologize for his lapses.
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