The price of honorThe exodus of lawmakers from the Uri Party has been compared to “a disguised divorce.” Three years ago, lawmakers loyal to President Roh Moo-hyun defected en masse from the Millennium Democratic Party and formed the Uri Party. People said the lawmakers were “leaving their wife.” They also fled the Millennium Democrats without paying a single penny of the party’s 4.4 billion won ($4.7 million) in debts from the presidential election campaign. Some said the lawmakers “are not even paying alimony.”
Politicians always make up good excuses to justify their actions, but the people always see through them. They left their wife to find a new household, and now they are trying to disguise their latest divorce to fool the people. It’s a satire worthy of Moliere.
One of the important issues of this mass defection is the lawmakers’ promise to pay back the illegal political donations they have received. At the beginning of this administration, the prosecution announced that Mr. Roh and his camp had received 11.3 billion won in illegal political funds.
At the time, the Grand Nationals were found to have received 82.3 billion won. The Grand National Party offered its training center in Cheonan to the state to redeem its honor, and the Uri Party lawmakers said they would contribute a portion of their salaries in a similar effort.
Each Uri Party lawmaker paid 300,000 won to 500,000 won per month, but the party has only accumulated around 700 million won so far, because the drive was voluntary. The party said it has found no legitimate way to pay the money back to the state, so it donated money to the Community Chest of Korea at the end of 2005. The amount was reportedly 300 million won.
Worse still, the Millennium Democratic Party has found no way to repay its debts from the presidential election campaign. Chung Sye-kyun, when he was the floor leader of the Uri Party, promised the Democrats that they would find a way to share the burden, but the Uri lawmakers have not provided a penny. Now that they are in the middle of the mass defection, no one appears to care about the money that is owed.
The Uri Party must make public how much its members have accumulated to repay the illegal political funds; and those who left the party must make public what they will do about their debts.
In addition, what will they do about the debts that were left behind with the Millennium Democratic Party? If they are responsible politicians, they must pay up. That is the price of honor.