- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

SEOUL South Korea's main opposition party asked outgoing President Kim Dae-jung yesterday to answer charges that his government "bought" a summit with North Korea that helped the lame-duck leader win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The demand came as auditors disclosed that a business group used $186 million from a government bank for projects related to the communist North.
The opposition Grand National Party had long claimed that Kim Dae-jung and Hyundai used the money as a payoff to "buy" North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's attendance at the historic summit in 2000.
Hyundai previously denied that the $186 million went to North Korea. The company did not immediately return a phone call seeking a comment.
Kim Dae-jung, who leaves office in late February, said the matter requires no criminal investigation.
"If the money was spent on promoting South-North economic cooperation, it is not desirable to make it a subject of judicial judgment for the sake of national interests," he was quoted as saying by spokeswoman Park Sun-sook.
The newspaper JoongAng Ilbo quoted an unidentified aide to President-elect Roh Moo-hyun as saying the Hyundai company remitted the money with the help of the government's National Intelligence Service.
Mr. Roh's office said it could not confirm the report, and the intelligence agency denied involvement. Hyundai declined to comment.
"This proves that this government's biggest achievement, the June 15 South-North summit, was bought with money," opposition party spokesman Park Jong-hee said in a statement.
"President Kim must explain before the public the suspicion about a behind-the-scene deal with North Korea and apologize," he said.
Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Price in 2000 in part for his efforts to reconcile with North Korea by holding the summit with its leader, Kim Jong-il.
He has denied any detailed knowledge of Hyundai's dealings with North Korea.
"The unique nature of South-North relations has forced me to make numerous tough decisions as the head of state, and I always put the interests of our people and nation at the forefront," his spokeswoman quoted him as saying.
Kim Dae-jung said Hyundai's joint projects in the North have "the nature of national projects" as well as being private ventures.
In its report, the Board of Audit and Inspection said it still was not clear exactly where the money went. It said it had no plans to demand prosecution of Hyundai executives but was willing to forward its findings to prosecutors if requested.
Hyundai's ventures in North Korea include a money-losing tourism project and a planned industrial park near Kaesong, close to the border with South Korea.
North Korea, meanwhile, yesterday issued its first comments on President Bush's State of the Union speech, calling it a "declaration of aggression."
"This policy speech is, in essence, an undisguised declaration of aggression to topple the [North Korean] system," an unidentified spokesman of the North's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the North's official news agency.
In recent months, North Korea kicked international nuclear inspectors out of the country, pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and took steps to resume making plutonium the fuel for atom bombs.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide