[Viewpoint]Ask the tough questionsThe odd and colorful composition of the Grand National Party’s candidate verification committee can’t be found in any other political scene in the world. The committee includes a former head of the central investigation department of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, a pastor who used to fight for labor rights during the Park Chung Hee administration, a Buddhist priest who is the dean of a Buddhist graduate school, a former high-ranking inspector, a lawyer and a female professor.
If not for the candidate verification committee, these nine members would never have gotten together. For the first time in the political history of Korea, the committee will hold an inquiry on the candidates for the presidential primary on Thursday.
The battle between Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye is one of the greatest contests Korean politics has ever seen. They are both widely popular, and it will surely be a great political television event. The hostility between the candidates is as heightened as it can be. However, to the nine members on the verification committee, the most important thing is the historical significance.
They should detach themselves from personal preferences and only remember their sense of calling. Their job is to ask the candidates piercing questions.
The nine members must ask Lee about his false address changes. When he was president of Hyundai Engineering and Construction, he fabricated his address in order to send his children to a better private school.
He used the excuse that he had no intention of running for president at the time. The committee needs to ask him whether such an illegality can be tolerated for someone aspiring to be a lawmaker, much less a president. Because of his children, other students who deserve to go to that private school were deprived of opportunities.
Who knows how their lives might have turned out? The committee members should ask him why he never apologized to those students and their parents.
U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, is the second-longest serving member of the Senate, currently in his seventh term.
In 1969, he was riding with a campaign worker when their car plunged into the water. Edward Kennedy swam free of the car and saved his life, while his secretary died. Kennedy is not responsible for her death, but he had to give up his dream of running for president for good.
The committee must ask Lee, who was found guilty of ordering the person who disclosed his election funding scandal leave the country, whether he can rightfully ask voters to support him.
Most real estate-related suspicions are tied with his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law filed a charge against the discloser and testified in front of prosecutors. However, he is still not coming forward. Of course, he does not have any legal obligation to speak publicly. Nevertheless, the committee needs to investigate. Lee is the highest-rated presidential hopeful in the polls, and if there is a doubt about him because of his brother-in-law and the voters want to know the truth, he needs to have his brother-in-law publicly vindicate him.
The committee needs ask Park some questions. In the late 1970s, Park acted, in effect, as the first lady after the death of her mother. The Korea Central Intelligence Agency and prosecutors investigated Pastor Choi Tae-min at the time. The probe concluded that Choi had caused troubles and behaved inappropriately. When the rival camp brought up the allegation, Park said those suspicions deserve “heaven’s vengeance.” The committee needs to ask whether Park, who had acted as first lady, denies the allegation and the result of the government agencies’ investigation. Also, she needs to explain whether she thinks it is appropriate to use the phrase, “heaven’s vengeance” about the decade-old suspicion.
After President Park Chung Hee was assassinated, 900 million won ($980,000) was found in the safe of the president’s office. When Chun Doo-hwan, then the head of the joint investigation headquarters, handed the money to Park, she kept 600 million won and gave 300 million won to General Chun. The money was President Park’s slush fund from businessmen. It was a sort of government fund. No matter how she was confused and scared, she should have used the money for the nation or given it to charity. Recently, Park visited the widow of Jang Jun-ha, who died while fighting the authoritarian regime, and she was dressed in bright yellow jacket. Park is known to carefully choose her fashion. If the visit was not a mere gesture and she was sincerely apologetic to the victims of her father’s legacy, she should have worn something more subdued, probably in gray, in consideration for the gloomy days the widow must have lived.
Many are skeptical that the candidate verification committee, which does not have any investigative authority, can find the truth. However, the inquiry can contribute in its own way. Carefully designed questions can bring out fear and embarrassment in the candidates’ facial expressions. The candidate verification committee is a group of prosecutors appointed by the citizens.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin