A disappointing prime minister

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A disappointing prime minister

Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo has behaved poorly in the face of the accusation that he was among those who had received money from Sung Wan-jong, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises who committed suicide during a prosecution probe for irregularities.

Lee swore he had not received a dime from Sung after news reports said he had accepted 30 million won ($27,385) from the businessman. He gave a false explanation and tried to save face by saying he could not remember the details. From the way he acts, we cannot but question whether the head of the cabinet was ethical enough to hold such an important title.

At the beginning, Lee insisted that he was not acquainted with Sung. But when evidence came up disproving this, he confessed he had met the businessman 23 times from August 2013 until last month. Lee said he had meals with the construction tycoon, who had also been a legislator while he was a floor leader in the ruling party.

While insisting he had not taken part in President Park Geun-hye’s election campaign in 2012, he mumbled that he could not exactly remember it when presented with a video of him cheering for Park in a campaign rally in Cheonan. During a parliamentary questioning, he told lawmakers to “be careful” of the Sung bombshell and said the investigation could be “complicated and broad,” implying he was being reported to about the process.

The prime minister’s cowardly and dishonest comments and behavior are adding to public disgust and disgruntlement over the Sung Wan-jong bribery scandal. Even the Saenuri Party is now demanding for the prime minister to step down.

But Lee said he cannot let a memo or one-sided statement decide his fate. He is half right. The prosecution will find out whether he received illegal money or not, and in a democratic society he is innocent until proven guilty in court. But regardless of legal reasoning, the prime minister must be aware that he has lost public confidence. He has shown little dignity or morality required of a prime minister.

President Park emphasized that there should be zero tolerance for anyone who committed crimes or engaged in corruption. But somehow her words fell short of sincerity and instead implied a touch of relief for escaping the note that listed eight names left behind by Sung, even though all were part of the inner circle that had played a major role in making her president. JoongAng Ilbo, April 16, Page 30

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