An embarrassing lack of ethics

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An embarrassing lack of ethics

Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook under the Roh Moo-hyun administration is serving a two-year prison term for taking bribes. The money in her prison accounts has been frozen because she has failed to pay fines. According to the prosecution, Han refused to pay an 883 million won ($741,800) penalty for embezzlement and is suspected of trying to hide her wealth.

Prosecutors have seized about 2.5 million won from her prison account, leaving just 100,000 won for the purchase of medicine and other daily necessities. Aides of the former prime minister condemned the judicial authorities for abusing their power to defame political figures still loyal to former President Roh ahead of the April general election.

Han had been disrespectful from the investigation all the way to the final Supreme Court ruling. The former Cabinet head outright discredited law and order. When her guilty verdict was upheld by the highest court last August, she decried the Supreme Court’s sentence, accusing the system of political oppression. She refused to comply with the detention, claiming her innocence and leading the Ministry of Justice to change regulations to enforce the ruling.

But ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, she withdrew 223 million won from her personal account and changed her deposit account containing 150 million won to her husband’s name.

In her personal wealth disclosure as a legislator last March, she reported 400 million won as assets. She could have been worried about the livelihood of her family, as the penalty would have taken all she had. But it is morally wrong for her to claim innocence while trying to keep her wealth hidden in order not to pay fines. We are appalled and embarrassed that such an unethical person once headed the government.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 15, Page 34

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