Pursue Sung’s allegations

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Pursue Sung’s allegations

The former head of Keangnam Enterprises divulged to a newspaper that he gave thousands of dollars in bribes to a former presidential chief of staff before committing suicide. Sung Wan-jong put a note listing the names and bribery amounts in his pocket before hanging himself from a tree on Mount Bukhan. The eight names were all aides of President Park Geun-hye. Sung committed suicide as the prosecution was investigating him for his claims that he enjoyed favoritism and received profits from overseas resources deals sponsored by the Lee Myung-bak administration.

He did not go silently. He left a note and an interview that could deal a potentially fatal blow to the administration. Regardless of the potential for such enormous ramifications, the matter must be investigated thoroughly.

Sung had connections in both the ruling and opposition camps. While blowing the whistle in an interview, he said he could tell his story because the statute of limitations had run out. He confessed he had given a total of 700 million won ($639,971) to Huh Tae-yeol, the former chief of staff who headed President Park’s election campaign, and that the money had been used for the primary campaign in 2007. He also said he handed over $100,000 to Huh’s successor, Kim Ki-choon, before he accompanied Park to Belgium and Germany in 2006. The memo in Sung’s pocket specified the date as Sept. 26, 2006. Everyone mentioned in the graft scandal denied the allegations.

Although the primary suspect is dead, there is enough evidence ? the dates and venues of money delivery and testimony from Sung’s secretary - to begin an investigation. Prosecutors must summon the implicated people. Although the seven-year statute of limitations on the political fund law has expired, the statute of limitations for bribery lasts for 10 years.

It is shocking that the incumbent and former chief presidential secretaries, as well as the prime minister and key aides to the president, have all been associated with the scandal. The presidential office and ruling party stoked suspicions by not giving a clear explanation, apart from individual denials. Those listed by Sung were closely involved in getting Park Geun-hye elected as the party’s candidate and president. They have been rewarded with senior posts in the administration. Sung’s testimony and memo cannot be taken at face value. It is the prosecution’s duty to find out the truth. The ruling party must cooperate with the probe. The government’s credibility is at stake.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, Page 26

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