- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

SEOUL South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said today he was aware of illegal payments to North Korea ahead of an historic 2000 summit, but allowed the money to go through in the interest of peace on the peninsula.
Mr. Kim, who leaves office on Feb. 25, also apologized for the scandal, which has embarrassed his government in its final days and intensified criticism of his "sunshine" policy of engaging North Korea.
"I am really sorry for causing deep concern to the Korean people, owing to the controversy," Mr. Kim said in a nationally televised speech. "As a person, I feel miserable and my heart is aching."
He denied that he or his government made any of the payments.
The Hyundai business group has admitted giving North Korea $186 million shortly before the summit, but claims the money was part of its business deals in North Korea that include tourism, railways and an industrial park. The money was borrowed from a South Korean state-run bank.
Opposition lawmakers claim the money was given to the communist North possibly from South Korea's government as "payment" for the talks, Mr. Kim's crowning feat.
In his speech, the South Korean leader said that Hyundai made the transfers with the government's knowledge. He said he accepted the move even though it was in violation of South Korean law. Mr. Kim said that because of the nature of relations between North and South, initiatives sometimes have to be conducted "outside the framework of laws."
"I take responsibility for this situation. But I earnestly hope that our people will understand my innermost feelings about the thing I did, out of my desire to promote peace and our national interest," he said.

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