The family business

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The family business

Roh Geon-pyeong, the elder brother of former President Roh Moo-hyun, is said to have met with Choo Boo-kil, a former secretary to President Lee Myung-bak, to try to halt the investigation on Taekwang Industrial Chairman Park Yeon-cha last fall. The elder Roh told Choo to protect the president’s family, which he said should also include Park.

But this “family theory” is more than nonsense. It is masking serious moral lapses of influential figures in the Roh administration.

President Roh has defended his brother, describing him as a powerless farmer from the countryside. But the elder Roh is alleged to have muscled his way into dealings with Nonghyup, the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, that resulted in the cooperative’s purchase of a securities firm, collecting billions of won in the process. He is also alleged to have acted as an intermediary, transferring illicit funds from Park and other entrepreneurs to ruling party candidates at the time. In addition, he is accused of trying to entice an opposition lawmaker into joining the ruling party.

At the root of these acts of corruption lies an anachronistic desire for power and a misconception about who must abide by the law. Roh seems to have thought that Park, as a friend or supporter of the president’s family, should be exempt from prosecution. Unfortunately, the elder Roh was not alone in his thinking. Both the husband of the president’s niece, who was involved in dubious commercial transactions worth many millions of dollars, and one of his friends, who was involved in trying to halt the investigation, are equally at fault here.

This kind of thinking has deeper roots in the collective sense of immunity that seems to affect only those in power. President Roh’s predecessors, Chun Doo Hwan, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, were also gripped by this illusion.

The families of these men were involved in various acts of corruption that are taken as privileges by our present-day royalty ?? the president’s family.

In any administration, members of the president’s family are prone to succumbing to the lure of power. They also tend to misunderstand that they still remain within a sacred space, even after a change of government has occurred. Part of the reason presidential families stay in the spotlight even after a new president has been elected has to do with the attitude of the judiciary. The same may be said of the Lee Myung-bak administration and those who will succeed him.

The family theory won’t work to shield the Roh clan, and we certainly hope those involved will take that as a valuable lesson.
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