[Outlook]An ugly spectacle

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[Outlook]An ugly spectacle

Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn has been questioned by the police in connection with the beating of some bar employees. This is first time that a conglomerate chairman has been interrogated by the police.
This sounds bizarre. I feel disappointed to see the chairman of the country’s ninth-largest conglomerate behaving like this.
I have often argued that entrepreneurs are patriots in the truest sense because they make money, pay taxes, export products and employ young people, unlike politicians who have nothing but fancy mouths. So Kim has made me feel ashamed.
Public opinion is very hostile toward Kim. A cab driver told me, “I don’t know who Kim is, but I guess that’s how the rich people handle things.” I could feel the hostility in his remark.
In a way, that is the most sensitive part of this case. Since the Roh Moo-hyun administration entered office, the division between the haves and have nots has been exacerbated. That atmosphere was subsiding a little, then the Kim incident took place.
I agree with the argument that our country cannot become a truly advanced nation when our leaders do not behave well.
All men are equal before the law. At least, we should try hard to prove that in order to sustain our society.
However, the police have handled this case in a very disappointing manner.
After receiving a report on the case, the police tried to sweep it under the carpet and did not work hard on the case for more than a month. That’s neglect of duty.
Then, the police changed course and became like a pack of bloodhounds. Was that because of media pressure? Probably. But to be more accurate, their efforts were only stepped up after the Blue House ordered a thorough investigation and said it would include the police in its probe.
After that, police chiefs got busy passing responsibility, saying that they were not told about the case or that they were just following regulations. This was an ugly spectacle.
On Monday, the police announced that it had received testimony from the victims saying they had been beaten by a pipe-wielding Kim. While the investigation was still going on, the police said they would seek a warrant for Kim’s arrest and another one to search Kim’s house and office.
There has never been a case like this. Everything that the victims have told police officers has been passed immediately to the media and the police announced their search and seizure operation in advance. These acts are against the law, which prohibits publicity of a case before indictments are filed.
It is understandable that the police are desperate to restore their reputation. The public hostility toward Kim has also put the police in a corner.
However, this was not the right way to carry out an investigation.
The police are also likely to be criticized for apparently rushing to the conclusion that everything the victims said is the truth and everything that Kim and his son said is a lie. Even if the assumptions made by the police turn out to be right, this was not the right way to handle the case.
I would like to ask one thing. Have all the moves made by the police in the last two days been for the sake of the investigation? Or were their actions simply a question of making a big effort now because their first steps were so inadequate?
I have worked as a journalist for 20 years. I have seen many cases in which public opinion pointed to a certain person as the criminal and demanded that he be severely punished, and thus the investigation moved along these lines. Such cases always leave a bitter aftertaste.
I have no desire at all to defend Kim.
The police must investigate the case thoroughly and the appropriate jurisdiction must impose due punishment. However, the police must abide by the principles of the law if they do not want to be deluged with complaints and criticism.
There is one more thing. No one should view this case as an example that demonstrates how the rich always behave. Nobody should say, “I knew it. That’s how the way the rich are.” That type of generalization is wrong.
I read on the Internet that somebody has suggested that people stop buying the products made by the Hanwha Group.
But the 25,000 employees of the group have nothing to do with the chairman’s personal affairs.
I still firmly believe that a country can prosper only when its companies do well. I want to beg businessmen to behave well. We are not living in the 1960s or 1970s any more. We have a duty and a responsibility to make Korea an advanced nation, for our children’s sake.

*The writer is the senior city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Chong-hyuk

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