Don’t dishonor independence fightersKim Won-woong, the maverick head of the Heritage of Korean Independence (HKI), has been accused of raising slush funds to finance personal spending, according to an audit finding by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA). It turned out that the HKI, which was established with the goal of serving the interests of the descendants of independence fighters, has been sending money to a personal account of Kim so that it could be spent on his clothes and barber shop visits.
The amount of the money he used for personal purposes reached 61 million won ($50,960). The money also went to finance the building of an herbal school Kim had set up. A building materials company to which Kim’s relative is related is also suspected of using the space and office furniture of HKI for free for five months. HKI even sent out letters to the Ministry of National Defense and the Yeoju City government to ask for their cooperation in collecting building materials on behalf of the company.
The business license to run a cafe at the National Assembly compound can be revoked due to the misappropriation by Kim of the cafe proceeds that should have been entirely spent on scholarships for the descendants of independence fighters. The misdeed of the head of HKI could hurt the descendants. Kim should be remorseful and step down.
But Kim laid the blame entirely on the employees of HKI. Critics of the body threatened to occupy the HKI building and hold a rally to demand Kim’s resignation. Kim Jin, son of iconic independence activist Kim Gu, called for a police investigation and immediate resignation of Kim.
Kim claimed that an official of HKI paid for Kim’s personal affairs out of eagerness to impress the president. Upon learning of the affair, Kim reimbursed his spending, according to his aides.
The MPVA filed for an investigation by the police after scrutinizing what Kim claimed. Even if Kim was not behind the misappropriation, he should take moral responsibility as head of the honorable organization.
HKI is responsible for arranging the upcoming March 1 Independence Movement Day ceremony. If a controversial figure who had stained the heritage name through scandals happens to read the Korean Declaration of Independence in 1919, he would be dealing shame to the ancestors.
The controversy does not end there. Kim has been indulging ruling Democratic Party (DP) politicians, including former justice minister Choo Mi-ae, by awarding her with the merit of honor. If an investigation on his misdeeds is stalled, the contemporary would be disgracing the patriots. The government must act fast so as not to further damage the heritage’s name.