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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on July 26)
Ex-president's liabilities
Don't lose last chance to expiate guilt before nation

Following almost daily raids on the hidden assets of ex-President Chun Doo-hwan, it is hard to guess where the end is. Ordinary people have to deny themselves all the comforts of life to save 1 billion won ($900,000) until they die. Yet Chun’s children, who are neither successful businesspeople nor professionals, are said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

   But the reason the law enforcement authorities must do all they can to force the general-turned-president to pay unsettled penalties of 162.7 billion won is not just for helping to ease popular resentment.

   It is to reaffirm that such concepts as law and justice have not completely disappeared in this country, which has become a playground for lawbreakers and all other kinds of foul players. The recovery procedure started too late, which means it must be all the more thorough.

   The ex-leader ― who spent years in prison for his military coup d’etat of 1979 and massacre in Gwangju the following year which brought him to power as well as bribery and corruption while he ruled the country from 1981-87 ― has flaunted law and justice by refusing to pay the fines, saying his entire fortune was “290,000 won.” What have made such brazenness possible were lawyerly maneuvering and a political truce.

   There is some truth in this regard that some media outlets attribute the belated enforcement of the law to the election of conservative President Park Geun-hye. “The ‘genuinely conservative’ Park administration is doing what liberal governments could not ― eliminating the remnants of military dictatorship,” said a conservative daily in a recent analysis. In reality, what forced the government to move was mounting pressure from the public as the deadline for the recovery of unlawful assets drew near.
If the incumbent administration wants to prove it has no other political motives ― such as diverting popular attention away from the state spy agency’s electoral maneuvers ― than re-erecting the sense of justice, President Park has only to return the “600 million won” which she had received from Chun 22 years ago, an amount that can grow several dozen times higher in current money’s worth, to the state coffer.

   The ongoing investigation points to increasing likelihood that the former dictator and his family members, relatives and aides have violated laws in the course of laundering his slush funds, as shown by the setup of paper companies in the nation and in overseas tax shelters, which were used to purchase bearers’ bonds, real properties, jewelries and golf club memberships worth scores of millions of dollars.

   What all this demonstrates is clear: Chun should no longer deceive the nation but settle unpaid fines along with a formal apology to the people ― without which not just the ex-leader but his children should face the full rigors of the law.
To prosecutorial investigators who conducted seizure and search at his home, Chun said, “Sorry for causing you troubles, gentlemen. I am ashamed to show people disgraceful scenes like this.” We hope he meant what he said.
Yet, an action that speaks far louder than these easy-on-the-ear words is to pay the balance in arrears. And that is the last opportunity for Chun to both save his minimal face as an ex-leader and help the nation’s history trudge along.