The public is watching

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The public is watching

Kim Ki-sik, the new head of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), may come under investigation by prosecutors after the opposition and a conservative civic group accused him of taking bribes and committing abuse of power as a lawmaker. After they filed complaints with the prosecution, Kim’s past has become a major issue. Considering that suspicions about his past activities have already snowballed and that he has close connections with the inner circle of the Moon Jae-in administration, his travails have significance.

Kim, a former lawmaker and civic activist, faces three areas of suspicion. The first involves money he received from the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), a government-run think tank, for overseas travel. As an opposition lawmaker several years ago, he toured hot spots overseas accompanied by an intern. In similar cases involving lawmakers, the prosecution considered travel expenses paid for by entities lawmakers must oversee as a form of bribes.

The second suspicion involves an illegal donation he allegedly received from a person with a possible conflict of interest. In 2015, Kim received 5 million won ($4,682) in a donation from the wife of Hyosung Group Vice President Cho Hyun-moon, who was engaged in a dispute with her husband’s brother and Chairman Cho Hyun-joon over management of the group. Several months later, Kim demanded the FSS investigate Chairman Cho’s slush fund. If a legislator receives donations in return for favors, that’s a violation of the law.

The third involves a dramatic increase in Kim’s wealth. When he was an opposition lawmaker in 2013, his wealth amounted to 480 million won, but it nearly doubled after three years. If lawmakers use donations and expenses for legislative activities to fatten their pockets, it constitutes embezzlement or violation of the political funds act.

Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, said he reached the conclusion that there was nothing wrong with Kim’s overseas travel sponsored by KIEP. His comment suggests some sort of investigation guideline to prosecutors.

The essence of the case is abuse of power by a politician. If the prosecution does not demonstrate a determination to get to the bottom of the case, they cannot avoid the stigma that tarnished past prosecutors with political motivations. After watching their investigations of corruption involving two former presidents for nearly a year, the public will watch carefully to see if the prosecution has the stomach to find out the truth about Kim.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 12, Page 30
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