Weeding out corruption

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Weeding out corruption

Lee Sang-deuk, a former lawmaker and older brother of President Lee Myung-bak, will be questioned by prosecutors next week on allegations of taking kickbacks from savings banks suspended for illegal loan practices and inadequate liquidity. The summoning of the elder Lee brings suspicion upon the whole Lee administration. The fall from grace of the brothers also underscores how stubbornly and unconsciously Korean politics are chained to the fetters of corruption.

The central investigation bureau of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said Lee has been asked to appear for questioning on Tuesday over his involvement. He is under suspicion of receiving billions of won from Solomon Savings Bank Chairman Lim Suk and others in return for exercising influence to prevent the shutdown of banks. With Lee added, the mighty trio - along with Choi See-joong, a former government communications regulator and political mentor to the president, and Park Young-joon, former vice minister of knowledge economy - all face legal suspicions.

Lee unabashedly interfered with appointments of key government officials and has often been criticized for backseat driving. Scandals relating to family members and relatives of presidents have become customary. The sons of presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung were arrested on bribery charges. President Roh Moo-hyun’s older brother also went to prison.

Why does shameful history repeat itself? It may be due to dysfunctional oversight mechanisms and lack of vigilance on the president’s part. And truth be told, it is absurd to expect justice from law enforcement officials and other watchdogs when they are made up of people loyal to the president and his confidants. Even the Prime Minister’s Office served as a clandestine organization to keep track of the president’s supporters and opponents - just as though we were living in an authoritarian regime.

Money has been instrumental in feeding corruption from top to bottom. Lim of Solomon is suspected of giving money to both ruling and opposition party lawmakers. Prosecutors should investigate all allegations against politicians and disclose their findings to the public. The investigations must be free from undue political interference.

At the same time, candidates running for president should speak out against corruption. This problem deserves attention from all.

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