Clear all suspicionsThe Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation is reportedly attempting to find ways to invest in welfare programs for Busan and the South Gyeongsang region by, for instance, selling its 100-percent stake in the Busan Ilbo and 30-percent stake in MBC. The move has been pilloried by the opposition camp for it’s purported intention to help the ruling Saenuri Party’s candidate Park Geun-hye - former chairwoman of the board of directors for years until she stepped down from the post in 2005 - in the December election.
Relatives of late Kim Ji-tae, a Busan businessman whose own scholarship foundation was confiscated by former President Park Chung Hee after a military coup to establish the Jeongsu foundation, filed a lawsuit to reclaim it, and the first court ruled that the plaintiffs cannot take it back as the statute of limitations has expired.
But a donation plan, no matter what intention it has, is not desirable with only 60 days left until the election. The JoongAng Ilbo insisted that Philip Choi, current chairman of the board, resign from his post and the name of the foundation be changed because it should lose the image linked to the previous power - the name Jeongsu was borrowed from the names of the former president and his wife. As Choi served as presidential secretary under the Park administration, it’s better for an independent person to devise future plans for the foundation after Choi steps down.
Any donation or charity which could be connected to presidential candidates should be restrained. President Lee Myung-bak’s announcement to donate his wealth for a scholarship - called the Cheonggye Foundation - was welcomed, but its purity was damaged because of the timing: he did it shortly before the 2007 presidential election.
The National Election Commission also banned independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo from using his name in a foundation during the campaign to avert misuse of it. In the same context, it could leave plenty of room for misunderstanding if Choi - who has close ties to Park Geun-hye - pushes ahead with welfare programs at the cost of the scholarship during her campaign.
Park and Choi must clear all suspicions over a deceitful tactic to help boost her support rate ahead of the election. A scholarship fund carries meaning only when it comes from wealth accumulated through work. There is no reason to attach the former president and first lady’s names to a forcibly-donated property, and a member of the Park Chung Hee clan is not authorized to take up the executive post, either.