Shame on you, Mr. Presidents

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Shame on you, Mr. Presidents

Former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo recently reentered the public spotlight for the wrong reasons. Chun and his wife were seen attending a fundraising event of the Korea Military Academy(KMA) even though they owe billions of won in unpaid fines to the government.

His successor and fellow KMA alumnus Roh Tae-woo owes similar fines, and got himself in hot water after filing a motion with the prosecution to get money back from his in-laws.

As the adage goes, a comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. But the past still haunts the two former presidents of military regimes. The two earned enormous wealth during their time in power, collecting massive amounts of money from business conglomerates for a “political fund.”

Political funds are sometimes necessary for state management, but the two pocketed corporate money to build their personal wealth. Their illegal slush funds came under investigation in 1995, and each leader was ordered to pay a fine of more than 200 billion won ($170 million), though they have yet to comply and pay up.

Roh claimed that he needs the money back from his in-laws to pay the penalties. He placed 65.4 billion won in the hands of former Shingdongbang Group Chairman Shin Myung-soo, father-in-law of his son, but Shin spent it all. Roh said that he will pay the fines once he gets the money from Shin. But his claims do not come across as credible because he made similar promises in the past only to backtrack later.

Roh has been secretive about his slush funds, and whenever the subject comes up, he lies about them. He said that he filed the motion to retake the money because his son is currently seeking a divorce.

Without a family feud, the shady money laundering could have been kept underground. Roh is also engaged in a court battle with his brother over money. It appears he has hidden dirty money in many places.

At the same time, Chun has refused to pay his fines, insisting he has only 290,000 won in his bank account. But he may have found a magic wand because he came up with more than 10 million won to donate to the military academy, his alma mater. His wife insists that the money obtained by her husband during his rule came only through legal means. So she, too, believes the fine should not be paid.

Regardless of the personal feelings, though, these former presidents should demonstrate decency by respecting the law. If they cannot do that, they should at least keep a low profile for the sake of the country.
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