Truth will outPresident Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, took a suspicious trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Dec. 9 to 12, triggering a controversy. After a surprising photo was released by a local media outlet, the controversy over his doubtful visit to the Arab country remains. In the photo, he is talking with Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
In 2009, the crown prince imported four Korean-type nuclear reactors worth 20 trillion won ($18.39 billion) after negotiations with then South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and handed over the 54 trillion won rights to maintain and operate them over the next 60 years to South Korea’s state-run energy company in 2016, when Park Geun-hye was president of the country. The appearance of Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, in the photo strongly hints at the possibility that the chief of staff’s trip involved discussions on the uncertain future of the nuclear reactors, given the new Moon administration’s plan to phase out nuclear power plants in South Korea to keep his campaign promises.
According to news reports, Khaldoon expressed his concerns after the Moon administration’s drastic shift in energy policy. The chairman reportedly planned to send a delegation to South Korea to deliver complaints. But the Moon administration first sent his chief of staff to help ease his worries, the reports said.
But the Blue House is trying to deny that his trip was related to the UAE’s concerns, and is bent on covering up what was discussed during his meeting. It says it cannot make public what happened in the UAE, citing security reasons. Coincidentally, the chief of staff did not come to an inquiry session in the National Assembly after submitting a suspicious request to the Blue House for a three-day vacation. That only helps deepen the growing suspicion over why he took the trip to the UAE shortly before Moon’s state visit to China.
The rumors say that Im hurriedly went to the UAE to calm the crown prince’ outrage over the allegation that a group of Koreans loyal to the Moon administration came to his country to dig up potential rebates in the previous administrations, in return for grabbing the construction of the nuclear plants. If the Blue House does not tell the truth behind the chief of staff’s suspicious visit, it can lead to a crisis for the government.
If the government stops short of explaining what really happened, the controversy over his trip can easily shake the new administration. The National Assembly must get to the bottom of the case, particularly considering the liberal Moon administration’s over-the-top push for a nuclear power phase-out.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 19, Page 34
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