Lee needs to tell the truthOn Saturday, four days after Uri Party legislator Kim Hyuk-kyu accused him of real estate speculation, presidential hopeful Lee Myung-bak admitted that part of the allegations were true. Lee acknowledged that he had falsely registered his address five times, but said the reason for the transfer was to enroll his children into a prestigious private grade school in the Gangnam area, not for real estate speculation. Mr. Lee, who currently leads in the popularity polls for president, has recently come under heavy attack not only from the other parties, including the Uri Party, but also from other candidates within his own Grand National Party. This is the first time Lee has admitted that an allegation was true.
Lee apologized to the public. He seemed to ask the public to understand his actions as part of an irregular but common practice of the past. Since the hectic days of fast-paced development began in the 1970s, false registrations of residences and falsified real estate contracts were so common that it was hard to find anyone in Korean completely innocent of such actions. Chang Sang, the first woman to be nominated for prime minister during the Kim Dae-jung administration, ultimately had to step down because of criticism that she falsely registered her residence three times. Of course, unlike Lee, Ms. Chang also faced allegations of land speculation, an illegal renovation of her house and a false registration of her academic records.
Even so, Lee’s attitude in his apology seems to indicate he thinks it will be too easy to win the public’s forgiveness. Lee has lost a legislative post before for breaking election laws. This is not the first time Lee has violated the law. Lee must reconsider the seriousness of his mistake. A person who wants to become president should have a strict law-abiding spirit above all.
More importantly, a presidential candidate must be honest. On the day Kim had announced these allegations, Lee threatened to sue him for libel. Lee denied the allegations he had speculated in real estate but remained mum on the allegations that he falsely registered his residence.
The next day, Lee accused Kim of talking nonsense and said the “world had gone mad.” Still, he said nothing about the address allegations. Why hadn’t he been honest, and told the complete truth? Even if he had not been aware of his mistake, he should have verified the truth after the allegations were made and then made the appropriate apology? The only bridge that Lee has to rely on cross the fierce waters of political verification is honesty.