[EDITORIALS]Investigate quicklyAs the prosecutors’ investigation into the lobbyist Kim Jae-rok has moved to the slush fund of the Hyundai Automotive Group, immense repercussions are expected. Mr. Kim was detained on charges of corruption when taking over an insolvent company and for arbitrating bank loans. Following the raid on the Hyundai-Kia headquarters, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday that it had arrested two more people, including Lee Ju-eun, the chief executive officer of Glovis Co., a Hyundai affiliate, for questioning on creating the slush fund.
Prosecutors explained that the raid was made only because they found circumstantial evidence that Mr. Kim received as much as several billion won (several million U.S. dollars) in lobbying funds from the Hyundai group, stressing that the investigation is not targeting the Hyundai Automotive Group as a whole. That is, prosecutors said the investigation targets only the slush fund, in order to get to the root of the lobbying fund, and has nothing to do with problems related to the ownership succession of the Hyundai Automotive Group and Hyundai’s takeover of Kia Motors. However, we still have to note that it is extremely exceptional for prosecutors to raid a conglomerate headquarters.
It is all the more meaningful that prosecutors made investigations in earnest when the May 31 local elections are around the corner. Some business observers speculate that the investigation seeks to “teach a lesson to Hyundai” in connection with anti-Hyundai sentiment in our society over the successor issue. Of course, the investigators stress that they have no political intention whatsoever, and have been working on an internal investigation since last January, when they arrested Mr. Kim. However, it eludes our understanding why and how prosecutors had to hold a two-month internal investigation if it was a simple “lobbying scandal regarding construction authorization.”
Speculations have arisen that this scandal involves key bureaucrats from not only the Kim Dae-jung administration but also the present government. Mr. Kim allegedly recommended a candidate for the president of a bank through an economic bureaucrat, which demonstrates the scale of his influence peddling. Prosecutors must clearly get down to the “dark connection” between Mr. Kim and the root of the scandal, figures in the political and business sectors. The case shouldn’t be used for political purposes and an effort should be made to minimize its effect on the national economy. To do so, prosecutors must end investigations as soon as possible.