Park Ji-man should come clean

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Park Ji-man should come clean

Park Ji-man is the only son of former President Park Chung Hee, who ruled Korea for 18 years, and brother of Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the Grand National Party and frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination in next year’s election.

Whether he likes it or not, Park Ji-man remains a high-profile public figure and should be careful about who he befriends, since many people are surely lurking around him with ulterior motives.

It turns out that Park has been close with Shim Sang-gil, the honorary chairman of Samhwa Mutual Savings Bank, who was arrested and is under investigation on charges of bribery and orchestrating illegal loans that led to the bank’s demise.

The two are of similar age and have been friends for years. Park reportedly was seen with Shin just hours before the latter was arrested. Park’s wife, who is a lawyer, also acted as a legal adviser to Samhwa.

It was reported that the bank had been transferring monthly “allowances” to associates of lawmakers - 5 million won ($4,630) to a sister of GNP Representative Gong Sung-jin and 3 million won to an aide of former Uri Party Representative Yim Jong-seok every month for several years. Prosecutors are investigating Shin’s lobbying of politicians.

Park rebuffed the prosecution’s accusations by claiming that being friends with Shin should not make him guilty by association. His sister also said that if her brother claims innocence, then that should be the end of the story.

But former GNP head Park and her brother have underestimated public mistrust. The two may think that people are making a big thing out of an innocent friendship.

However, Ji-man is not just an ordinary citizen. He is a close family member of a promising presidential candidate. Therefore, he should have been more discreet and kept suspicious relations at bay. His so-called “friend” already had a criminal record over tax dodging, which could have raised red flags.

Ji-man should be more explicit in explaining the depth of his friendship and his wife’s role as a legal adviser for the bank - as well as the couple’s suspicious involvement in lobbying for the bank. Former Chairwoman Park also should encourage her brother to come clean on the matter.

They should recall the corruption scandals that have ensnared the sons and family members of the past five presidents.
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