Clear all the suspicions, periodThe prosecution combed through more than 10 suspicious locations yesterday - including Sigongsa, a publishing company owned by former President Chun Doo Hwan’s first son Jae-kook - to accelerate its campaign to collect a huge amount of the strongman’s unpaid fines. At the same time, the prosecution has entered a legal procedure to seize Chun’s properties after raiding his luxurious house in Yeonhui-dong, northern Seoul. Citizens are paying keen attention to whether the prosecution’s unexpected raids end up revealing the existence of massive slush funds that Chun has been suspected to have amassed for more than two decades.
Some people believe the prosecution’s drastic move went beyond their expectations. Prosecutors have reportedly used metal detectors to find very expensive paintings and pottery. But we believe the prosecution’s search and seizure of Chun’s private residence can be justified no matter what.
In 1997, President Chun was sentenced to life in prison on charges of rebellion and bribery, as well as a 220.5 billion won ($197 million) in fines. But he has yet to pay 167.2 billion won - 76 percent of the sum. Asked why he didn’t pay the fines several years ago, Chun famously said, “I have only 290,000 won in my bank account.” As the public uproar mounted, the prosecution launched an investigation into the source of Chun’s exorbitant lifestyle, setting up an exclusive investigation team last May. The prosecution’s execution of a search and seizure on the former president’s assets, as well as his son’s, was foreseen when the National Assembly last month passed a special law which extended the time and scope for collecting his unpaid fines.
What attracts our attention most is whether the unceasing suspicion over Chun’s alleged concealment of his secret funds by borrowing others’ names will be cleared up. The prosecution believes the real estate Chun bought in his sons’ names might have been paid through his slush fund. His first son Jae-kook also turned out to have set up a phantom company in the Virgin Islands, probably to evade taxes. But he was not able to come up with a convincing explanation despite his strong denials. We hope the never-ending suspicions over the Chun family will finally be cleared this time.
However, the prosecution did not demonstrate a strong will to tackle the case. In 2004, the prosecution confirmed that Chun’s second son Jae-yong had hid his assets and evaded taxes, but they didn’t follow through. The prosecution must achieve tangible results this time. The Chun family also must cooperate with the prosecution to clear persistent suspicions.