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First Kim Du-woo, now Shin Jae-min: When Will Corruption Among Lee's Associates End?
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Suspicions that former vice culture minister Shin Jae-min, a close associate of President Lee Myung-bak, received bribes worth several billion won from Lee Kuk-chul, chairman of railway locomotive and ship equipment manufacturer SLS Group, is shocking in several ways.

Shocking is the claim that Lee supplied Shin with cash, corporate credit cards and vehicles for almost ten years in exchange for promises that Shin would "solve SLS's problems;" also shocking is the claim that Shin collected these payments not only on public holidays, but on a monthly basis, which is unprecedented.

Shin Jae-min, former vice culture minister

Above all, the claim that Shin took a billion won from Lee during Grand National Primaries before the 2007 presidential election, claiming that the Anguk Forum (Lee's presidential election campaign) urgently needed emergency funds, is a matter directly related to the immorality of the current administration as a whole.

Shin, of course, denies the allegations, saying they are not even worth his attention, but Lee's testimony in exposing the suspicions was specific in its details and he is presenting evidence including sales receipts from gift vouchers, making it likely, we believe, that the allegations are true.

The problem is whether corruption among Lee's close associates is really limited to Shin.

Immediately before the charges were made against Shin, former presidential spokesperson Kim Du-woo, another of the president's close confidants, was summoned by prosecutors on suspicion of corruption related to the Busan Savings Bank scandal. He is now awaiting trial.

As with the Busan Savings Bank scandal, this case is bringing up the names of several influential figures in the administration. This suggests that the latest incident marks not the end of corruption among the president's closest allies, but merely the beginning.

It can therefore be said that Lee's philosophy of appointing high-ranking officials, which holds that moral integrity and sense of public service are less important than "getting the job done well," has ended up bringing about the events of recent days, which has both messed up both the work to be done and demolished the administration's morality. In some ways, Lee has brought all this upon himself.

Prosecutors must immediately set about investigating not only Shin, but also other influential figures in the administration who are said to have taken several billion won from Lee in exchange for promising to help his company out of difficulty.

Given that the behavior of close presidential associates is being indicated in specific terms and that the details and process of corruption charges are taking on the appearance of a typical power scandal, prosecutors must devote all their powers of investigation to bringing the truth to light.

They must dig up every detail when it comes to how the president's confidants wielded their influence in order to save SLS Group, and why most of the group's subsidiaries were sold off or went bankrupt despite this influence having been wielded.

If prosecutors, mindful of those still in power, wrap up the matter with a half-baked investigation, they may as well be dead.

Cheong Wa Dae, too, must banish the temptation to obstruct prosecutors' investigations or exert pressure from the outside.

President Lee, in particular, must reflect bitterly on the fact that his own "close associates that get the job done well" are one by one becoming implicated in corruption or becoming more likely to be implicated, and push his way beyond the current situation by way of a comprehensive overhaul of his style of government.

This is the right thing to do by the people, and is also a way for him to prevent, even to a modest extent, the lame duck status that has already acquired serious proportions.

Aside from these events, we intend to reflect upon ourselves in terms of morality of the news media. Shin, who used to work for a central daily newspaper, reportedly received 30 million won in exchange for writing articles publicizing SLS Group while he was a reporter.

If this is true, there is no doubt that this was the behavior of a typical "phoney reporter" and a criminal act that brings shame on the media as a whole.

All reporters, who never stop talking about social justice, must watch their behavior, mindful of the possibility of becoming "second Shin Jae-mins." (Editorial, The Kyunghyang Daily News. September 23, 2011)

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