Transparency for allKim Byung-joon, a professor at Kookmin University who advised former President Roh Moo-hyun on policy while President Moon Jae-in was his chief of staff, found himself in hot water as soon as he took on the role of restoring the fractured main opposition Liberal Korea Party (LKP).
A local media outlet suggested Kim had violated the antigraft law for playing a pro versus amateur game during the KLPGA tour at Hi-1 Resort at the invitation of then CEO of the resort and Kangwon Land casino operator Ham Seung-huie in August last year.
The police embarked on an investigation in March upon a tip from an insider at Kangwon Land, who claimed the bill for the golf, souvenir gift and meal would have come to 1.18 million won ($1,043). Under the antigraft law, public teaching posts and media organization employees fall under the ban on accepting gifts and entertainment from private corporations and individuals beyond a certain threshold, just like public service officers.
The LKP has persuaded Kim to accept the role of overhauling the conservative party following its crushing defeat in the June 13 local elections after a desperate search for a reform-minded and respected figure. It is a pity that its choice has come under controversy for illegal graft. Kim explained that he played golf just once because the sponsor claimed the bill wouldn’t exceed the 1 million won legal threshold. Ham also denied any illegality, claiming the golf fee cost around 600,000 won per guest.
But why was a professor of public administration invited to a golf event sponsored by a casino operator? Moreover, he should have thought again about the freebie and checked whether the invitation violated the law.
The police response is also questionable. The internal investigation that it embarked on four months ago was leaked to the press after the accused person was named the interim head of the main opposition. If the information came from the police, a political motive could be suspected.
The police dragged their feet on the Druking scandal that involved ruling party members. Yet it moved fast to raid opposition party candidates in March ahead of local elections. The police must be transparent and fair in their investigation process.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 19, Page 30